Romney returns to N.H. as candidacy nears

March 4, 2011

By Glen Johnson, Globe Staff

Former Governor Mitt Romney is speaking in New Hampshire tomorrow night as his still-unannounced second presidential campaign gathers momentum.

Since a two-week break in Hawaii over Christmas, when both he and President Obama were vacationing in the 50th state, the Massachusetts Republican has undertaken an aggressive travel schedule making clear his intentions even if he has yet to declare them outright.

Romney has traveled from coast to coast and overseas as well. He’s been on late-night television and “The View.” He’s talked cars at the Daytona 500 and gotten a trim at Tommy Thomas’s barber shop, a political stomping grounds in Atlanta.

On Saturday alone, he’s speaking behind closed doors in Florida to a meeting of the Club for Growth, then flying north for a speech at the Carroll County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Attitash Grand Summit Hotel in Bartlett, NH.

It will be his most prominent public audience since he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington early last month.

The appearance also comes as likely rivals Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee, and Haley Barbour ramp up their own activities — and their rhetoric.

Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, was especially entertaining on Tuesday as he sat beside Governor Deval Patrick and testified before a US House committee examining Obama’s health care overhaul.

You might have thought that Patrick, a Democrat from blue-state Massachusetts, would have been Barbour’s target. Instead, it was Romney, a fellow Republican, who endured the governor’s silver-tongued jabs.

“Massachusetts has a state health insurance program that they’re obviously happy with, and we think that’s their right,” Barbour said.

Then, deftly unsheathing a dagger, he added: “And Senator (Edward M.) Kennedy and Governor Romney and then Governor Patrick, if that’s what Massachusetts wants, we’re happy for them. We don’t want that. That’s not good for us.”

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