CONCORD, NH -- Addressing a Tea Party event here in New Hampshire, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debuted a new line as he tried to portray himself as an outsider candidate.
"Of all the people running, I don't know that there are many who have less years in politics than me," Romney told mixed crowd of about 200 curious Tea Partiers and Romney supporters in blue T-shirts. "I'm still a citizen. I'm still a businessperson, a conservative businessperson."
What he didn't say: That he's run for president before (in 2008, unsuccessfully), as well as for the U.S. Senate (1994, unsuccessfully) and for Massachusetts governor (2002, successfully).
Romney gave a shortened version of his usual stump speech, talking for only about 13 minutes before leaving to a live musical performance provided by the Tea Party Express, which organized the event. He shook hands and posed for photos with supporters near the Tea Party Express busses, and left the site quickly, followed by much of the media in attendance.
Before the event began, some 50 yards away in the same park, a group of activists organized by Tea Party group FreedomWorks and other local Tea Party groups protested what they saw as Romney's 11th-hour effort to garner Tea Party support. All 15 to 20 supporters stayed to hear Romney speak, and they quietly held their signs in protest. None would comment afterwards, but beforehand, protestor Tom Bell offered his thoughts on Romney's relationship with the Tea Party.
"I think Romney is a professional politician who can see that he is not going to get the nomination without strong Tea Party support -- even though he doesn't really subscribe to Tea Party principles, and he's going to claim to be a tea partier," said Bell. Bell added that he was considering supporting Rick Perry in New Hampshire.