MANCHESTER, NH -- Returning to the spotlight in the state that launched his successful bid for the GOP nomination four years ago, 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain endorsed Mitt Romney in New Hampshire today, calling for the state to "catapult" Romney to the nomination.
"I am really here for one reason and one reason only -- and that is to make sure that we make Mitt Romney the next president of the United States of America," McCain said, admitting to a bit of nostalgia for the Granite State. "New Hampshire is the state that will catapult him on to victory in a very short period of time."
Romney arrived in the Granite State energized by his eight-vote win in last night's Iowa caucus, which McCain jokingly referred to as his "landslide" victory. But the energy level faded at the town event here this afternoon after the laudatory introductions had faded.
Long the state's dominant front-runner, Romney faced a series of awkward questions in the town hall portion of the event, including one from a Chinese-American woman who accused Romney of "putting down" Asians; a 31-year old self-identified "Occupy Boston" member who asked Romney if corporations are "abusive people"; and a grade-school-aged boy, who asked Romney for his position on avoiding future conflicts in the Middle East.
While Romney largely handled the questions with aplomb, the atmosphere at the town hall was hardly that of a victory rally of a favorite son come home from the front. Mark Provost, the Occupy protestor, later told NBC News his group intends to make sure Romney faces tough questions all across the country.