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Romney talks about way forward

From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Following lunch aboard the Romney plane from Salt Lake
City to Minneapolis yesterday, Romney's spokesman said he was coming back just to
chat – meaning not have a press avail.

Passing the time
with reporters is reportedly something McCain does well, and given his
success as a media darling and now in the nomination process, it's no
surprise that the Romney team thought it might be a boon to take a page
from that playbook. But given the rarity of the occurrence -- even
though reporters have been pushing aides that he think about doing it
-- a gaggle is exactly what ensued as every reporter on the plane
rushed him with recorders and cameras when he started walking down the
aisle.

He began by chatting about the service and how he
was happy to have a few of his family members with him, but the
discussion turned to what Romney really thinks of his prospects given
the uphill battle he has to climb on Feb. 5 and beyond.

Reiterating
what he put forth yesterday, he said, "I don't think somebody is going
to walk away with the needed numbers. I think this thing goes on well
beyond Tuesday." He added, "I haven't looked thoroughly at the calendar
beyond Tuesday, but I know there is one. And I intend to keep on
battling. That's my plan."

But Romney also gave a little
bit with lines like "I mean my life is my family" and "The Olympics was
really a high point." He acknowledged that he's read articles that have
asserted he'd do anything to be president but said "that's the furthest
thing from the truth."

Romney also addressed the
religious service (funeral for former LDS President Gordon Hinckley) and mentioned some of the political figures who were
there but declined to wax philosophical on the politics. He said he
went to a viewing with the Hinckley family ahead of time and talked
about who in the family he knew and saw, "but no political thoughts."

While
reminding that there are a handful of successful political figures in
Washington who are members of the LDS church, the event again shines a
light on Romney's Mormon faith -- which instead has been somewhat of a
bane to him - at what may be a very inconvenient time. But at the same
time, the funeral takes a shred of secrecy away from the faith that
Romney has insisted to keep so far from the public eye, for as he's
said many times before, he's "running for commander in chief, not
pastor in chief." Still, as he continued to do today, he took a pass on
politicizing his religion in any way by refusing to use the fact that a
handful of U.S. senators are Mormon and have had no trouble getting
into office.

Still, Romney's willingness to give a few
details about the funeral and what it means to him also may give a
personal element to a candidate who's been blasted for being both
inauthentic and robotic. He honored and praised Hinckley at pre-dawn
session with reporters in Florida on Monday just moments after waking
up and learning of the death. And though Romney has long been hesitant
to lavish many details on anything relating to his faith, he gave a few
specific compliments to the deceased religious leader.