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Romney Makes
Closing Argument in N.H.

Romney Makes
Closing Argument in N.H.

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney delivered his closing argument to New Hampshire voters Thursday, then headed west to seek a victory in the Iowa caucuses that would allow him to return with a winner's momentum.

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney delivered his closing argument to New Hampshire voters Thursday, then headed west to seek a victory in the Iowa caucuses that would allow him to return with a winner's momentum.

''The next president is going to have to lead the nation in a time of dramatic change. He's going to have to strengthen our military, strengthen our economy, strengthen our families,'' Romney said at the American Credit Union Museum in Manchester. ''In a number of ways, with the recognition that a lot of humility is necessary at a time like this, I do believe that the unique experiences I've had in my life have prepared me for facing the entirely new generation of challenges we face.''

Reading from notes and speaking in a serious tone, the former governor said his personal upbringing, background in business, and experience running the Winter Olympics and the state of Massachusetts surpass the resume of unnamed rivals like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who leads in Iowa, and Arizona senator John McCain, who has been surging in New Hampshire.

In particular, Romney noted that his work to pass a universal health insurance law in Massachusetts has expanded private coverage to 300,000 people who previously lacked it.

''There are other people running for president who have health care ideas,'' Romney said in a nameless jab at another rival, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has outlined only health care principles. ''Some even have health care plans. I believe I'm the only person running for president -- Republican or Democrat -- who can point to a health care success.''

Romney spoke in glowing terms that evoked the sunny optimism of former president Ronald Reagan, to whom Romney referred several times. At the end of the day, Romney departed for Iowa, where he will remain through its January 3 caucuses. After that, he will campaign around-the-clock in New Hampshire before its January 8 primary.

''No one votes for yesterday; they vote for tomorrow,'' Romney said at one point. ''Elections are about the future, the future of our families, the future of our country.''

At another, he said he was emboldened by the spirit he had seen as he traveled the country during the past year.

''I'm convinced that America is not built up by individuals who are doubters, but people who are dream makers, if you will,'' he said.

In an appeal to Republican social conservatives who play a critical role in Iowa, Romney also cast himself as a guardian of traditional American values, noting his own upbringing in a home with married parents and four children, his 38-year marriage, and raising five sons.

Left unsaid was that as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he neither smokes nor drinks alcohol. If elected, he would become the first Mormon president.

Romney said that as Massachusetts governor he was at the forefront of significant social battles, from school choice to abortion rights to a state supreme judicial court ruling that made the Bay State the only one in the country to allow same-sex marriage -- something Romney strongly opposes.

''I faced that not out of a sense of discrimination against people who are gay, but instead out of a very deep-held belief that the ideal setting for raising a child is where there's a mother and a father, and that we should do everything in our power to preserve and protect homes where a mom and a dad can help develop and nurture the next generation,'' he said.

Romney also made a personal appeal to New Hampshire residents.

He recalled towing a 15-foot powerboat to Lake Winnipesaukee, where Romney has a vacation home, to teach his children how to water ski. He also spoke of visiting Pat's Peak to teach his sons how to ski, and of family trips to Franconia Notch to swim in the Saco River.

Romney noted he had held more than 150 campaign events in New Hampshire, including a visit Thursday to a diner in Nashua just steps from where John F. Kennedy held his first presidential campaign event in 1960. Romney later got a chicken lunch at a Manchester barbecue house before picking up his wife, Ann, for the credit union speech.

''I cannot express to you how impressed I am with the interest of people in New Hampshire in the process by which you select the nominee of each party,'' Romney told the audience. ''You folks have an enormous voice in that process, and you're about to let that voice be heard.'' (Glen Johnson, AP)

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