“What were we talking about? Oh, yeah, social conservatism. Anyway, if Santorum overperforms, Romney underperforms … if Santorum, as far outside the norm as he is, does well here, and then you get 11 days and go down to South Carolina and if he does well in South Carolina—no, if he wins South Carolina, if he wins South Carolina—and South Carolina is the nut-cutter.
“They are all imperfect, but all of my conservative friends agree that Romney is the worst RINO in all of RINO-dom. He is the anti-Christ or something. But you know, four years ago, Romney was our guy! He was the one that was going to stop McCain! So how he became completely unacceptable, I don’t know. It’s his turn. That’s the way the Republican Party rolls, but everybody is trying to stop the Republican establishment. You know, all conservatives hate the god-damn establishment. That’s just the way it is.”
Mr. Romney seems unable to know what to do with all of this sentiment. His rallies in New Hampshire were genuine events, with hundreds of people lining up to hear him speak (although New Hampshirites may be the only people in the union who will take time out of their day to attend a rally, stand up and cheer there, grab a lawn sign on the way out and then tell you they are still undecided).
He knows how to throw the aforementioned red meat on the grill—“What frightens me today is that we have a president I don’t think who understands the nature of America”—but will quickly catch himself, and say that he doesn’t think the president is such a bad guy. He likes to turn the microphone over to his wife, Ann, who plays the part of a saucy wench so sharped-tongued that parents should keep their children close at hand.
“It’s a dangerous thing to give me a microphone. You never know what I am going to say,” she told thousands of supporters at a rally at a high school gym in Exeter, and then invariably, she will say something about when before the 2012 campaign she asked her husband, “‘Mitt, can you save America?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’”
And the cornerstone of Mr. Romney’s campaign to save America seems to be keeping it from becoming Europe. In his speeches he rails against the Continent as a place of low-earning and lazy ne’er-do-well Socialists.
“I don’t want America to become more like Europe. I want America to become more like America,” he told one rally.
There are plenty of Europeans in New Hampshire for the spectacle, and luckily for future relations, they don’t seem to mind that much.
“We even heard Mitt Romney say that the average European has only 50 percent of the income of the average American people,” said Frits Huffnagel, a Danish public relations executive. He patted The Observer’s shoulder. “But don’t feel pity on us. It’s not true.”
As the voting began, the circus seemed to have moved on. Mr. Santorum had spent most of his time recently in South Carolina. Mr. Perry was off the stage completely. Mr. Gingrich had toned down the language on Mr. Romney and was back to giving long-winded lectures about weapons systems.