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Romney Rolls Into States Where 'Every Town Counts'


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. It's a classic tradition of presidential campaigns - the small town bus tour. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney began his in New Hampshire yesterday at the farm where he kicked off his campaign a year ago. NPR's Ari Shapiro was along for the ride.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Summer in New England is practically designed for political ads: waving green fields, cherry red barns popping against a bright blue sky, and on this morning, live bluegrass music.


SHAPIRO: As Romney spokesman Rick Gorka jokingly put it at campaign headquarters in Boston...

RICK GORKA: Welcome to day one of summer camp.

SHAPIRO: This session of summer camp lasts five days and straddles six states, from the Northeast to the Midwest. Romney will visit New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan.

RUSS SCHRIEFFER: All six of those states were won by President Obama in 2008.

SHAPIRO: This is campaign advisor Russ Schrieffer.

SCHRIEFFER: So, we're certainly campaigning on their turf as opposed to campaigning on what would be considered our turf.

SHAPIRO: Yet, the small towns on this itinerary tend to be solid Republican turf. There are four big blue Romney buses staged across the route. At the end of each day Romney will fly from one stop to the next.


SHAPIRO: At the kickoff in New Hampshire, sweeping cinematic music heralded Romney's arrival.


SHAPIRO: His bus slowly rolled onto the farm field while cheering supporters waved American flags and blue baseball pennants that said Romney.

MITT ROMNEY: As you know, Ann and I visited this farm a year ago when we launched the campaign. And it was a day not unlike this one. It was a gorgeous day. Beautiful.

SHAPIRO: As Romney spoke, small planes circled overhead trailing dueling banners. One said Romney for President 2012; the other, sponsored by a Democratic group, read Romney's Every Millionaire Counts Tour. That's a takeoff on the name the campaign gave this tour, Every Town Counts. Romney hit the rural theme again and again in his tribute to small town America.

ROMNEY: Every town counts because the families who have lost a job, faced a foreclosure, or been forced to spend the money they were saving for college just to make ends meet are not statistics. They are our fellow Americans and it's time to take care for them, recognize them as such.

SHAPIRO: It's important for Romney to deliver this message because he performed relatively poorly in rural communities during the primaries. If he wants to flip these blue states red this year, he'll need to gin up enthusiasm in the small towns that tend to vote Republican.

ROMNEY: And small towns gave us Lincoln and Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan, and so many sons and daughters who've sacrificed to defend our freedom on battlefields far away.

SHAPIRO: Romney's policy prescriptions for small towns are the pretty much same as his plan for the big cities. He talked about repealing the health care law, lowering taxes, and increasing domestic production of oil, gas and coal. Retiree Janet Forest of Hampton, New Hampshire is thrilled to hear Romney talk about rural America for a change.

JANET FOREST: Well, nobody ever pays attention to us otherwise. I think this is fabulous.

SHAPIRO: But while Romney tries to focus on people way outside the Beltway, Washington intrudes. Yesterday afternoon, he responded to President Obama's decision to stop deporting some students who came to the country illegally as young children. Romney said this White House is opting for a quick fix.

ROMNEY: I think the action that the president took today makes it more difficult to reach that more long-term solution because an executive order is, of course, just a short-term matter, it can be reversed by subsequent presidents.

SHAPIRO: One big change for this stretch of the campaign is that Romney won't be doing any fundraising on this trip. Instead, as one campaign aide put it, there'll be a lot of ice cream, a lot of cheeseburgers, a lot of classic retail politics. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Romney campaign. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.

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