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  • Mitt Romney
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Telegraph editorial page editor Nick Pappas, left, and reporter Jake Berry listen to Mitt Romney during The Telegraph editorial board's live-streamed interview Monday, November 21, 2011.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Romney denies change since ’08

NASHUA – Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says he hasn’t changed in the years since he lost the 2008 New Hampshire primary.

Instead, he said Monday in a meeting with The Telegraph editorial board that it’s the political conversation that has shifted – a move that has benefited his campaign.

In the last election, the country’s focus lay squarely on Iraq, an issue that favored Romney’s primary opponent John McCain, Romney said. McCain went on to win the New Hampshire primary and the Republican nomination before losing to President Barack Obama in the 2008 general election.

“I think (McCain) was the right guy for the time. ... But today the issue that most people are concerned about is the economy,” Romney said Monday.

“The American people want someone who knows how to lead and understands how the economy works,” he said. “For that reason, I think people are looking at my candidacy in a way that’s perhaps different than four years ago.”

So far, the numbers ring true.

Romney, who recently picked up endorsements from U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Charlie Bass, among others, has led the Republican field in New Hampshire in most polls since he entered the race this spring. A recent University of New Hampshire poll said surveyed voters prefer Romney over Obama.

Still, throughout the campaign, Romney has faced accusations from Democrats and Republican opponents of changing his mind on key issues. Some Republican party leaders have found themselves shopping for other candidates, from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who entered the race in July, to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has thus far declined to join the field.

“Look, my job is to get out and talk to people about what I’ll do to make America stronger,” Romney said, who worked in the private sector before running for governor, heading an equity firm called Bain Capital. “I believe that to turn this economy around will require someone who has actually worked in this economy.”

Romney said he agrees with Obama about the need to extend the payroll tax break – a matter which the president is likely to address Tuesday in a visit to Manchester – but disagrees with the president about whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest residents. “We don’t raise taxes on Americans,” said Romney, who wants to keep the cuts.

Those issues are peripheral to the real needs of the economy, Romney said.

The country needs more drastic tax reforms, he said, including eliminating taxes on interest and dividends and lowering the corporate income tax, among other moves.

“We need to get the rate down so we’re competitive with Europe, for instance,” he said.

On the issue of health care reform, Romney said if elected, he would immediately order waivers for the 50 states from Obama’s federal health care reform legislation, which he claimed has raised taxes and cut Medicare benefits. And he would explore a full repeal of the law in Congress.

Romney’s opponents claim that he helped paved the way for the law when Massachusetts enacted a universal health care plan during his time in office, but Romney denied the charge, pointing out differences between the state and federal programs.

“(In Massachusetts), we were dealing with the 8 percent uninsured ... but President Obama’s plan takes over health care for everybody,” he said. “It’s a huge power grab for the government.”

Asked about the accusations of flip-flops, Romney said he has stayed consistent on the issue of same-sex marriage. “I don’t believe in discriminating in employment or opportunity for gay individuals. So I favor gay rights. I do not favor gay marriage,” he said.

But, on the issue of abortion, the candidate acknowledged changing his stance after his time in office.

“When I ran for governor, I said I wouldn’t change the law (on abortion). That was effectively a pro-choice position. I changed to being adamantly pro-life,” Romney said.

“But, look, this is the nature of politics,” he continued. “The president and his team will do everything in their power to try and make this a campaign about anything other than their record. And the president’s record on this economy is poor.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or