Portsmouth, NH - Striking a populist tone, Mitt Romney attacked President Obama's record on job creation, saying his administration has made it more difficult for small businesses in this country, and promised things would change under a Romney administration.
"Small business has really felt like it's been under attack over the past several years," Romney told a crowd of local fisherman and residents on a pier in Portsmouth, the state's largest coastal city. "If I become president of the United States, I am going to be a pro small business president and fight for the rights of small business people"
Acknowledging the recession contributed to a drop in small business startups, Romney placed a large portion of blame on President Obama's policies, including an increase in regulations put in place by Washington. "Regulators are just multiplying like proverbial rabbits and making it harder and harder for enterprises to grow and to understand what their future might be," Romney said.
In a response statement, Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith said Romney was "distorting" the President's record. "While initiating an overhaul of the regulatory system that cuts red tape and will save businesses $10 billion over the next five years, President Obama has also approved fewer new regulations than President George W. Bush did during the same time period in his term."
Romney was joined by New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, a potential Vice Presidential pick who has campaigned consistently with Romney since endorsing him in November of last year. But top Romney advisor and former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu threw water on speculation that this was a test-run for a Romney-Ayotte ticket, saying the Senator has already appeared "30 times" with Romney.
"It's nothing different than the sense that he's in a battleground state with a very important elected Senator from the battleground state," Sununu said. "When you go to the battleground states, you get as much of the powerhouses from the Party as you can on the stage."
This is Romney's second appearance in the Granite State in the last week, underscoring its importance for him during the general election - a strategy echoed by one of his senior campaign advisors during a forum hosted by Washington Post on Saturday.
President Obama carried New Hampshire by nearly 10 points in 2008, but the Romney campaign believes this state, along with Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Nevada are in play come November.
New Hampshire has a large independent streak, having one of the highest number of undeclared voters of any state in the country. The campaign is banking on name recognition - Romney was the Governor of neighboring Massachusetts and owns a vacation home here - and a struggling economy to bring this group back into the fold.
However, if anything can be learned from 2008, this strategy will be tough to pull off. The state hasn't gone for a Republican candidate since President Bush in 2000. And Senator John McCain was a well-known figure in New Hampshire, having beaten President Bush in the 2000 primary and re-launching his presidential campaign after winning here in 2008 primary, but still lost the state by nearly double digits in November.