ALTOONA/NEWTON/PELLA, Iowa -- In a series of talks to the Saturday morning coffee and breakfast crowd in the southern part of the state, Mitt Romney argued that he had the right mix of character, vision, and experience to lead the nation.
Whereas Mike Huckabee tries to connect to the crowds here by presenting himself as being from a southern state with small towns not that different from Iowa in terms of basic values and concerns, Romney puts a heavy emphasis on family.
His wife Ann Romney held his hand at the Coffee House Hollander this morning, standing right by his side on top of a narrow box, as he addressed patrons. The couple spread out afterward so that Ann could hold a series of her own events. Romney also spoke about his father's rise from humble beginnings to a successful business and political career, and through it all, his father remained most proud of raising his four children. It's a sentiment Romney said he shares through his relationship with his five sons and 11 grandchildren.
The emphasis on the family is no doubt two fold--to connect with social conservatives and to counter the image of himself as robotic and unemotional.
Other than talking about family, Romney discussed the challenges including "global jihad," health care, and education--and argued that his background in business, the Olympics, and Massachusetts gives him the experience needed to bring about change in Washington. Former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, who is traveling with Romney, also cited these experiences in calling Romney the "transformational conservative in the race." However, given the problems Romney has gotten into with shifting his positions on a number of issues, I'm not sure "transformational" is an adjective that the campaign wants to employ on a regular basis.
Another interesting note was that the Huckabee campaign, perhaps because it lacks the resources to respond to all of Romney's attacks on television, has taken to sending surrogates out to Romney's events. I spoke with Huckabee supporter Gilbert Baker, an Arkansas state senator, outside the Midtown Cafe in Newton. Baker offered a point by point rebuttal of a Romney pamphlet he said distorted Huckabee's record on immigration as governor. I would write more, but am off to another event right now.
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