AMES, Iowa — Mitt Romney showed up to his Ames, Iowa, campaign rally like most contenders for the Republican presidential nomination: in a bus.
Romney’s Ames event was decidedly high-tech compared to the meet-and-greets of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign, the coffee shop question and answer session Rick Perry held in Creston, and the straight forward policy talk Ron Paul gave at the Iowa Motor Speedway in Newton.
In contrast to his dramatic entrance, Romney kept his speech to several hundred people low-key and personal, with few details on the policies he’d implement as president. He opened his speech by talking about he met his wife and Romney family road trips.
Such personal tales are becoming regular fare during Romney’s campaign stops; he’s been criticized for being too stiff in person.
Still, Romney criticized President Barack Obama for instituting government policies that encroach on individual liberties. Those policies go against what the Founding Fathers had in mind for the country, Romney said.
“The dreams of the patriots, the way they crafted this country, what they built with our founding documents was not something just temporary,” Romney told the crowd. “They would see beyond the years.”
Romney then turned his rhetoric to the current administration.
“I think [Obama or the people around him] want to change America,” Romney said. “This is not an election just to change presidents, it’s an election to save the soul of America.”
Romney also tried to paint himself as a political outsider, a tactic meant to separate him from some of his rivals, such as Newt Gingrich, who have long political careers. Though he gave few details, Romney argued that his business experience leading the private equity firm Bain Capital would help him grow jobs and the economy.
“I spent my life in the private sector, I spent my life in business,” Romney said. “I’ve only spent four years in government. I didn’t inhale.”
Romney is at the top of the polls in Iowa, running neck-and-neck with Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Marilyn Schager of Ames, Iowa says she’s leaning toward voting for Romney for his stance on expanding jobs, rebuilding the economy, and spending less in Washington.
Romney’s shifting views on abortion and health insurance mandates don’t bother Schager.
“This was so many years ago. Our whole world has changed since 9/11. You cannot hold these people responsible because we had unlimited spending,” Schager said after the event. “I want the one who is going to address the problems we have now, not what it was before 2001.”
After taking a government class in high school this year, Kaiden Billings, 18, is excited to participating in the Iowa caucuses for the first time.
He’s also leaning toward Romney for being detailed with his plans for the economy. Billings agrees that the government should be smaller and regulations should be eliminated to let companies grow.
And there’s another reason: Billings went to the Salt Lake City Olympics, which Romney managed. And he was impressed.
“He did a great job with the Olympics,” Billings said. “I think he could also fix our economy.”
Photo by Jeff Thompson. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses the crowd during a rally in Ames, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011.