Romney Kicks Off Bus Tour, Says Obama Fails Middle Class
ABC News' Emily Friedman and Michael Falcone report:
STRATHAM, N.H. - Mitt Romney officially kicked off his five-day, six-state bus tour here today, on the very farm where he launched his presidential bid last June, telling supporters that there has been no president who has failed middle-class Americans more than President Obama and that if elected, he will "hear" the voices of the American people.
"Let us make today the beginning of the end of disappointments of the Obama years," Romney said to a crowd of hundreds, standing on the back of a flat-bed trailer parked in a field on Scamman Farm. "Let us make today the start of a new and better chapter that we're going to write together.
"If there has ever been a president who has failed to give the middle class of America a fair shot, it is Barack Obama," Romney said.
"Since last June, we've been to towns, big and small, we've visited businesses - some were generations old, others were quite new, every one of them trying was make the best of a bad economy," said Romney, who officially kicked off his second presidential run here June 2, 2011. "Across the country, people have welcomed us into their homes. We've enjoyed long talks about family and country in break rooms and backyards, and in diners and on factory floors.
"Everywhere I go, I meet people who represent the best of America," Romney said. "They are hopeful, hard-working, determined and proud. But they are also anxious and they're worried. They are tired of being tired.
"And they are tired of a detached and distant President who never seems to hear their voices," he said. "But I hear you and I'll make sure I'll continue to hear the people of America when I'm President of the United States if I get your support."
Each of the six states Romney will visit on his five-day tour - New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan - were won by Obama four years ago.
In a briefing with reporters at Romney campaign headquarters in Boston this morning, Romney's senior strategist, Russ Schriefer, noted that some of the specific areas where the bus will stop were Obama territory while some voted more heavily for Sen. John McCain in 2008.
The Romney strategist cast the trip as a tour of the "back roads" of America. But as Romney noted in his speech, they are places that he considers "the backbone of America."
"This is an opportunity over the next five days to go to places that are a little bit off the beaten path," Schriefer said, "and visit towns and cities where people are really struggling in this Obama economy."
The five-day trip, which will include no fundraisers, will afford Romney the opportunity to return to retail politicking full time - at least temporarily. Although the former Massachusetts governor will be crisscrossing each state in a motor coach, he will be hop-scotching between them in a private charter plane. And a campaign spokesman said three to four buses would be used in the course of the journey.
"It's an opportunity for us to engage in some traditional campaigning," Schriefer said, adding that not all of the stops would be "traditional."
"The most important thing is it gives Gov. Romney the opportunity to talk about his vision for the future," he said, "how this economy, how this country can be turned around."
Romney will cover more than 1,500 miles by bus and by air in the course of his trip between Friday and next Tuesday. His speech in Stratham was the first of two events Romney will hold today in the Granite State where polls still show President Obama in the lead.
With hay bales and a farmhouse rooftop cradling a giant red, white and blue sign with the slogan, "Every Town Counts" at his back, Romney continued to highlight areas of difference with President Obama.
"That's really the divide in this race," Romney said. "The president thinks we're on the right track and his policies are working."
His words echoed those he spoke here last year.
"This country we love is in peril. And that, my friends, is why we are here today," he said at the farm in 2011. "A few years ago, Americans did something that was, actually, very much the sort of thing Americans like to do: We gave someone new a chance to lead; someone we hadn't known for very long, who didn't have much of a record but promised to lead us to a better place."
As two planes buzzed overhead - one backed by the Romney campaign and dragging a banner that read "Romney for President 2012? and another sponsored by the Democratic group Moveon.org that read "Romney's Every Millionaire Counts Tour" - Romney rallied the crowd.
"I believe with all my heart that we can and that we must do better. And we will do better," he shouted. "And let me ask you where you stand: Do you believe America can do better?" The crowd screamed, "Yes," in response.
But Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement that Romney offered "zero new solutions to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class" in his speech today.
"While President Obama laid out the clear choice in this election yesterday between a vision that moves us forward and creates an economy built to last, and one that would send us backward to the failed policies of the past decade, Mitt Romney continues to offer nothing but empty and angry rhetoric," Smith said.