From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike
ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- Romney began his first official bus tour this morning in western Iowa carrying the message, "we don't vote for yesterday, we do vote for tomorrow."
Part of Romney's rallying cry sounded his theme of optimism and went like this: "I'm convinced that the source of America's strength is the beliefs and the values of the American people. It's not goverment that makes us strong; it's our people. It's hardworking, God fearing, education loving, opportunity seeking, risk taking, patriotic American people."
The arc of his closing message covers both change and security. Sept. 11 crept back into his notes on national security and how it came to play in his experience handling the 2002 Winter Olympics. He informed the audience that the Salt Lake City games represented "the first event on the international stage... the first national special security event after 9/11," and that he "was able to turn those games around with the help of a lot of other great people and have safe games."
He also hit his change message hard, broadening it to a more global theme. "I think you're going to see more change in the next 10 years than we've probably seen over the last 10 centuries," he said. "And so the next president is going to have to be able to draw on the strength of the American people and lift their eyes and optimism towards the opportunities we have and overcome the challenges honestly that we face, and at the same time draw on the innovative spirit in a nation and a world that's changing."
The governor is riding aboard the Mitt Mobile today with the press behind in a chartered bus. The tour goes straight southbound from the northwestern tip of the state and wraps up for the day in Council Bluffs. It picks up again tomorrow morning just outside of Des Moines in Altoona.
Later today, the motorcade will roll through a bakery and an ice cream parlor as two of its six stops.
Riding along with Romney is his wife, Ann, and Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who told voters he signed up with Romney's camp more than a year ago.
The candidate spoke for about 10 minutes to rally voters but took no questions.
Mrs. Romney spoke for almost as long as he did near the end of the 25-minute stop and told a couple of personal stories about her husband and family.
When Mrs. Romney spoke, she told some of the same stories she usually does, including getting through her struggle with multiple sclerosis. Like the candidate, she talked about leaving Massachusetts for Salt Lake City, but she discussed it in terms of her own personal struggles having just been diagnosed with the disease and likened the situation to "jumping off a cliff without a parachute."
One of the most interesting things she said concerned the progress of their family life, which is a big part of Romney's message. She volunteered that when their five sons were young, Romney "hated to travel, which was a problem," because "he wanted to be home all the time with the kids." She went on that "eventually he just couldn't do it anymore" and had to change jobs.
Of course, the travel schedule is intense for the couple these days, as the bus tour will span five days before the caucuses.