MANCHESTER, N.H. - It was all about the economy tonight in the Granite State, where Mitt Romney spent the better part of an hour fielding questions during a town hall that focused nearly entirely on unemployment and spending.
In one of the more straightforward questions of the 11 the former governor was asked this evening, a man from Londonderry, N.H., asked if Romney was “willing to upset a lot of countries to take care of America first.”
“The answer is yes,” said Romney. “And you may say, ‘Well, prove it.’ It’s hard to prove but I can tell you this: I don’t have a career in politics. This, for me, is not the next step in my political career to run for president. As you know, I was governor for four years and I point out that I didn’t inhale.”
Romney’s line about career politicians has been used before as a veiled reference to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Tonight, Perry is giving a keynote speech at an annual meeting of conservatives in the New Hampshire just a few blocks from where Romney held his town hall.
“I’m in this race because I’m very concerned about the country we’re going to give to my kids and my grandkids,” he said. “I’m not willing to go down as a member of the worst generation.”
“I want to get America right, and I happen to know that a lot of things I will have to do won’t be really popular,” said Romney.
While the questions about the economy allowed Romney to showcase his background in the private sector, there was a brief moment of disconnect when one audience member, who identified himself as “Will from Manchester,” told Romney as a preface to question about drilling that he had stopped to fill up his gas tank on the way over to the town hall and it cost him $3.45 a gallon.
“Where’d you go for that? That’s pretty good,” Romney interjected.
“Actually, I think it’s high,” said the man, who went on to ask what Romney would do about opening up land in the U.S. to drilling, if elected.
Romney said that on day one of his administration he would issue an executive order to break ground on already approved drilling projects and would promote the exploration of other drilling opportunities.
The Outer Continental Shelf surrounding Florida, said Romney, would be one of those areas to explore, and he suggested that Floridians who have, so far, been opposed to drilling off the state’s coast because of fear of oil spills may “change their minds on that” if the royalties went to the state.
“But let’s finally get serious about opening up our capacity to drill in our own country,” said Romney. “We are an energy-rich nation and we are acting like an energy-poor nation.”
Romney also voiced his support of government investment in science.
“In learning about how the universe works with the idea that understanding will allow us to make commercial products for America and put people to work,” said Romney.
“I’d like to have a very clear mission for what we want NASA to do,” said Romney. “I don’t know that president has a mission for NASA right now other than closing it down, which I think is a mistake.”
Asked about the Occupy Wall Street movement, Romney accused President Obama of dividing the country.
“There are some people in that protest effort who are just angry they can’t find work,” said Romney. “And I certainly sympathize with those people.
“The president should take responsibility that his economic plans didn’t work,” said Romney. “He borrowed $787 billion and said that would hold unemployment under 8 percent.
“He set the bogey and he missed it,” said Romney. “He failed.”