STRATHAM — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney kicked off a six-state bus tour of “the backbone of America” Friday at a Seacoast farm, blasting President Barack Obama as “a detached and distant President who never seems to hear” the voices of Americans.
“If there ever has been a president who has failed to give the middle class of America a fair shot, it is Barack Obama,” Romney said. “From now until November, our campaign will carry a simple message: America's greatest days are ahead.
“We must not let the desperation of a failing presidency divide this great country,” Romney said.
Romney tried to give an optimistic message, saying that even in places “where factories have closed and jobs are too few, the spirit of enterprise — the spirit that powered the engines of America's remarkable economic growth and prosperity — that spirit still lives strong.”
Romney said the goal of his campaign and, if he wins, his presidency, “will be to nurture that spirit and flourish once again.”
Romney spoke to hundreds of supporters at former New Hampshire House speaker Douglas Scamman's farm, the same place where he formally launched his campaign for president just more than a year ago.
This time he was launching a campaign tour called “Every Town Counts” that will stop in smaller communities, rather than the big cities of the six battleground states of New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan. Obama won all six states over John McCain in 2008.
“For so many Americans, the distance between their town and the city of Washington has never seemed so far,” Romney said. “The federal establishment has never seemed so hostile and remote — so disconnected from economic reality and yet so willing to use restrictions and regulations, taxes and fines, commissions and czars to direct our daily lives.”
He charged that Obama ignored Americans when they “rose up and demanded” that he “stop borrowing money and sticking our kids with the bill,” and when they said, “we don't want Obamacare.”
Romney said Obama “isn't giving the middle class a fair shot when wages keep going down and prices keep going up. Under Barack Obama, more Americans are living in poverty than under any president in history. That's a tragedy, not a fair shot.”
After the Stratham event, Romney and his wife, Ann, boarded the campaign bus for Milford, where he spoke at an ice cream social at the town oval.
At the Milford event, supporters got their fill of ice cream, hand scooped by local politicians and even Congressman Charlie Bass.
“I came for the free ice cream,” said Emily Saunders, 16, a sophomore at Milford High School. “My mom wanted me to come because I'm going to be voting in two years and she wants me to know what's going on.”
Saunders was one of hundreds of people who made their way through the tight security to see Romney.
“I'm an Obama supporter, but Romney is most likely our future president, so I wouldn't want to miss seeing him,” said Heike Vogt of Amherst.
A group of women, including Reenie Neonakis of Peterborough and Carol Holden of Amherst wore “Mommas for Mitt” T-shirts.
Romney, who was introduced by state Sen. Peter Bragdon, Bass, and former Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, seemed unfazed by detractors at the event.
Across the Oval, a group of Obama supporters chanted while overhead an airplane towed a sign that read, “Romney's Every Millionaire Counts Tour,” the anti-Romney campaign launched by political action group MoveOn.Org.
Romney was joined in Stratham and Milford by U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, and Pawlenty.
The Democratic National Committee launched its own bus tour in Exeter, called: “Romney Economics: The Middle Class Under the Bus Tour.” It will shadow Romney's appearances in the six states.
Obama is slated to return to the New Hampshire on June 25 when he will speak in Strafford County. Details of that visit have not yet been made available.
Nancy Bean Foster contributed to this story.