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In veiled shot at Gingrich, Romney camp highlights ethics, family

Mitt Romney and his campaign surrogates hammered dual themes of trust and integrity in New Hampshire Saturday, with some of his key backers urging voters to contrast Romney’s life with that of other GOP contenders – implicitly contrasting the straight-laced candidate with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been married three times and faced a reprimand from the House Ethics Committee in the mid-1990s.

Introducing Romney at a breakfast at the The Old Salt in Hampton before the candidate jetted back to Iowa to campaign, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu told hundreds of New Hampshire voters to carefully consider their choice.

“There are a lot of good people running for president – some of them are my friends, a couple of them are not,” said Sununu, who has served as one of the Romney’s campaign’s key attackers as the campaign has tried to halt Gingrich’s rise in the polls in recent weeks. “There are lots of reasons for choosing. We look to somebody who has experience, we look to somebody that has talent, and most of all, I think we look to somebody we can trust.”

“If we wanted someone to come in and talk to our kids about an ethical life, the importance of family, I suspect when we look at all those candidates, we’d quickly realize the right man for it is Mitt Romney,” Sununu continued.

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On Friday night at a spaghetti dinner in Merrimack, where an overflow crowd listened on loud speakers in the parking lot, New Hampshire “tea party” activist Jennifer Horn told the crowd that she had endorsed Romney because of his character and personal integrity.

“You are never going to hear anybody of accusing Mitt Romney of cheating on his taxes, cheating on his business, cheating on his family,” said Horn, the 2008 Republican congressional nominee for New Hampshire who also leads a tea party-affiliated group known as “We the People”, which has hosted many of the GOP presidential contenders.

The comments by Horn and Sununu echo the central message of Romney’s recent ads, which emphasize his wholesome family life and four-decade marriage to his wife Ann, who narrates one of the ads about character and has spoken at length about those issues on the campaign trail.

Romney has been softer in his own remarks – but has talked at greater length in recent days about how his parents imparted their values to him at an early age. On Saturday morning in Hampton, he noted that he “grew up in a home where honesty ruled.”

Looking out at the audience at The Old Salt, Romney said, “I think of my family and the lessons I learned about honesty and integrity from my mom and dad.” He went on to describe his father’s hardscrabble upbringing, how he paid for his honeymoon by selling cans of aluminum paint from the back of his trunk and ultimately worked his way up to become chief executive of American Motors.

Romney then pivoted to President Obama – unleashing his central argument that Obama is trying to turn America into a “European social welfare state” where wealth is redistributed by the government: “They say they are going to create greater equality; what they are going to create is greater poverty,” the former Massachusetts governor said to applause. “No nation on earth has achieved greatness and wealth on that path.”

maeve.reston@latimes.com


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