EXETER, NH -- Under the championship wrestling banners lining the walls of a high school gym here in Exeter tonight, Mitt Romney and Chris Christie got into verbal wrestling matches of their own with three separate sets of Occupy protesters.
"This is our regular group here," Romney said drily when a small group of Occupiers began to chant "Mitt Kills Jobs" midway through his speech.
As the group was being escorted out, Romney said it was "wonderful" to live in a country where people can express their views, but that he wished they would do it with "a little bit more courtesy."
When the protesters interrupted Christie minutes later with a similar chant, he was less accommodating.
"Really?" Christie asked, when the chants of "Christie Kills Jobs" began. "You know something may go down tonight but it ain't gonna be jobs, sweetheart."
Christie was interrupted just has he began to rail against a Washington culture of division, which he said was guided by President Obama, and he used the disruption to further his argument.
"I doubt he is, but I hope the president’s watching," Christie said. "I have a message for you Mr President: This is the type of disoriented anger your cynicism and your division is causing in our country. Bring our country together stop dividing it Mr. President."
Christie's clear delight at dealing with the protesters energized a crowd that the local police estimated to be more than 800 strong. That turnout number, if accurate, would make tonight's rally one of Romney's largest of the campaign thus far. But even as he shook hands with supporters who spilled over to an overflow room, Romney was confronted by one last Occupy protester, who continued to needle about the causes of the recession, Romney even as staff attempted to guide the candidate away. Romney instead turned back to face the protester head-on.
"You know what? This president has caused a deepening recession and is responsible for 25 million Americans being out of work or stopped working or not being able to get jobs," Romney said, before walking away. "And let me tell you, this president's been a failure and that's one of the reasons I'm running is to help you get a job."