BEDFORD, N.H., - On the eve of his biggest push yet in the Granite State, Mitt Romney tonight delivered his closing argument, calling on voters to reject President Barack Obama's "failures" and "misguided policies," and opt for a leader - him - who will "save a vision of America."
"We are Americans. And we will not surrender our dreams to the failures of this president," Romney said to a crowd of more than 150 who had packed into the Bedford Town Hall. "We are bigger than the misguided policies and weak leadership of one man. America is bigger than President Obama's failures."
Romney, wearing jeans and a sport jacket, was juxtaposed with a highly produced event - professional cameras shooting what appeared to be a campaign ad, teleprompters and lights. As his wife Ann looked on, Romney spoke passionately to the New Hampshire crowd, reminding them of their importance in the upcoming election.
"Here in New Hampshire, in Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan - across America - we are at the beginning of a democratic process that those early patriots risked all to secure," Romney said. "This is the moment when we reject failure and commit to make the disappointments of the past few years only a detour, not a destiny. We believe America can do better. Because we believe in America."
Tonight's speech is the first of more than eight events scheduled during the next few days, including the unveiling of Romney's first campaign bus of the cycle.
His speech in Bedford focused entirely on President Barack Obama, and mentioned none of his GOP rivals such as Newt Gingrich, who has recently seen a slip in national polls.
Contrasting his own preference of a merit-based society with what he called Obama's "entitlement society," Romney accused the president of reversing "John Kennedy's call for sacrifice, suggesting that the president would prefer Americans ask, "What can the country do for you?"
"Once we thought 'entitlement' meant that Americans were entitled to the privilege of trying to succeed in the greatest country in the world," Romney said. "Americans fought and died to earn and protect that entitlement. But today the new entitlement battle is over the size of the check you get from Washington."
Recalling Obama's speech a few weeks ago in Kansas, Romney said that the president "failed to mention the important different between Teddy Roosevelt" and himself.
"Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities," Romney said. "President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes."
In a statement from the Obama campaign, spokesman Ben LaBolt countered Romney's claims.
"Only a candidate like Mitt Romney could give a speech like this with a straight face," wrote LaBolt. "Governor Romney claims to want to level the playing field to create opportunity, but all his policies do is stack the deck against the middle class. He has repackaged the same policies that caused the economic crisis and led to the insecurity middle class families have been facing."
Romney concluded his speech in Bedford by urging voters to "remember how special it is to be an American," and to "remember what it was like to be hopeful and excited about the future, not to dread each new headline."
When the applause subsided, Romney took the microphone for a last minute plea for votes.
"We don't have a long time to go, it's getting closer now," he said, as the audience, still standing, quieted to listen. "Your primary is coming up very soon, and I would like to win."
New Hampshire's primary is scheduled for Jan. 10.
"We want to win in New Hampshire and we'll need you guys to help us spread our message," Romney said.