WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — During the course of the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney has proudly claimed his roots as native Michigander, a Bostonian (who is unfailingly loyal to the Red Sox), a summer resident of New Hampshire and, of course, a part-time Californian when he escapes to his beachfront home in La Jolla.
But he surprised some members of his audience Thursday at a brewery in Jacksonville when he mentioned that they had considered putting a new coastal destination on that list: the mighty swing state of Florida. “You know my wife – I wish she were here today. ... She has said someday, who knows, we might move to Florida. You never know. Someday, way down the road.”
“We had the chance during the primaries to be able to go all over the country and see a lot of places, and she said ‘You know what? If we are going to move, one place I love [is] Jacksonville, Florida,’” Romney told the crowd, which cheered. “She knows a good thing when she sees it.”
Later, on his charter flight from Jacksonville to West Palm Beach, a reporter asked Romney what he and his wife found most appealing about Jacksonville. “We love California,” he replied. “But there are attractions to Florida. It has the right tax rates, among others.”
In the short term, Romney said, he was heading to his family’s summer home at New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee to get the house ready for the summer. “I’m going to do that this Saturday,” he said. “It will be me alone. Put the boat in the water. Get out the picnic tables. By myself.”
Though Romney has a had busy week of fundraisers and other events, the candidate was in a jovial mood Thursday — and he was especially friendly to the media a day after several of his aides tried to block reporters from approaching the usually distant candidate on the rope line. (The aides had tried to enforce a new rule that would have put greater restrictions on press movements within his events, but then the campaign said the effort by aides had been an error.)
Since then, Romney has gone out of his way to spend more time with reporters, chatting — though briefly — on each of his flights around Florida. After his rally and news conference in Jacksonville, he came back onto the plane bearing warm chocolate chip cookies that had been given to him at his event.
Romney, who stays trim by running or biking each morning that he is on the road, offered his tips on how not to gain weight on the campaign trail: “High stress,” he told reporters.
An hour later, he approached reporters with his iPad on the tarmac after the flight bearing a picture of his grandson, 5-year-old Parker, who had formed his hair into a mohawk with the help of his mom.
“You know how she did that? With Elmer’s glue and egg whites. I kid you not . ... Isn’t that something else?” Romney said, laughing. He said he’d never tried such an elaborate styling job on his own hair when he was he was younger.
“I never did my hair like that but I’m thinking about it,” he said. “People wonder how I keep my hair like it is – it’s like a little Elmer’s glue and egg white would probably go a long way.”
“Isn’t that too much?” he said, showing off the picture of Parker. “Too much. I miss him.”