PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - Last week it was Sen. Marco Rubio's turn, this week it's Sen. Kelly Ayotte's chance at what may be Mitt Romney's vice presidential tryouts, appearing with the presumptive GOP nominee at an event on a fishing pier here as the campaign begins to compile a list of potential running mates.
Ayotte toured fishing boats with Romney then introduced the candidate to a crowd gathered nearby, hopping on and off boats and finagling her way down steep dock ramps with the former governor by her side. Stepping on to a boat, she exclaimed, "Hi! I'm Kelly," as she stood and listened as Romney discussed the state of the economy with the boat captains.
Then, taking the stage ahead of the candidate, Ayotte stayed on message, suggesting that Obama's regulations have hurt the economy nationwide as well as in the Granite State.
"If Washington isn't broken, I don't know what is," said Ayotte, who hasn't appeared with Romney since she campaigned with him ahead of the state's primary in January. "And now more than ever we need Mitt Romney's leadership in the White House."
As the crowd broke into chants of "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!" Ayotte responded, albeit a bit quietly, "Mitt, Mitt…yes."
It was a different kind of chemistry than Romney had with other potential vice presidential picks. Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., bounded on stage with Romney during campaign stops ahead of that state's primary, and last week in Pennsylvania, Rubio stood by diligently as Romney held a press conference, careful not to step on the candidate's toes and steal the spotlight.
Romney vowed that if elected he would become a "pro-small business president" who will "fight for the rights of small business people."
"I somehow think the president has this view of the country that big government, big companies and big banks could do a better job managing this economy than individuals free to choose their own course in life and free to choose their own enterprises," said Romney.
Romney went on to accuse the president of diverting attention away from the main issues facing Americans with "silliness."
"Over these last several days, we have seen this president go across the country and bring up all sorts of extraneous items," said Romney. "Everything he can do to distract from the issue that people care about, which is a stronger economy, creating more enterprises, creating good jobs, and raising incomes."
"I wish the president would start talking about the economy and stop trying to divert with all the silliness day in and day out of he and his team," said Romney. "Let's focus on what people care about. And the issue people care about is the one that is affecting us, which is their pocketbooks, their gasoline prices, the cost of higher education, the need for more jobs, the need for higher incomes. We are seeing a greater and greater gap between those that have the most and those that have the least. The president's focused on taking away from those that have the least. I want to help everybody, particularly those that are being left behind. I want to help the poor. I want to help the middle class get the kind of jobs that raise their income. Let's focus on helping the people who need the help the most."
Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for Obama's re-election campaign, accused Romney of distorting the president's record.
"Mitt Romney continues to distort the truth about President Obama's record of reducing burdensome business regulations," said Smith. "While initiating an overhaul of the regulatory system that cuts red tape and will save businesses $10 billion over the next five years, President Obama has also approved fewer new regulations than President George W. Bush did during the same time period in his term."