STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, this past Sunday, Mitt Romney's campaign reserve a school gym in Exeter, New Hampshire. The details of that event tell you the style in which the Republican candidate is presenting himself. The campaign selected a small gym, far too is small for the crowd had arrived.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The next president of the United States, Mitt Romney.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
INSKEEP: Romney stepped up on stage, with a gigantic American flag on the wall behind him. He wore jeans and an open-collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
MITT ROMNEY: I never imagined I'd get a chance to run for president of the United States, and to see the people across the country. But this welcome tonight, this excitement, this tops it all. Thank you so very much.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
INSKEEP: Every moment in this event seemed designed to project both patriotism and sincerity. Romney, whose father ran for president before him, has developed a polished stump speech over the years. He argues that President Obama has a negative view of the nation.
ROMNEY: Because, as we look at the country - you know I've written a book called "No Apology" - I've watched the president not just apologize to the world as he visited foreign places, but I thought I saw in him someone who didn't have the same level of passion about the founding principles of the country that I imagined that many of us have. And I...
INSKEEP: His book, "No Apology," rests at the heart of Romney's rationale for running. Romney repeatedly accuses President Obama of apologizing for America in speeches abroad. Independent fact-checkers, like Politifact.com, have found that Obama did not apologize, and rate Romney's claims false. On Sunday, after suggesting the president doesn't stick up for America, Romney proclaimed his own love of country.
ROMNEY: And we have today extraordinary challenges around the world, but I'm convinced that you, like me love this country. The Democrats, independents, Republicans love this country and are only waiting for leaders to step forward who are willing to live with integrity and speak the truth, who know how to lead and who will call on the American people and their patriotism.
I will do that with your help. I want to be one of those leaders. We're going to win this thing, I hope coming down the road I count on you. Thank you.
INSKEEP: It's the style of a campaign front-runner that he can bring along political stars to vouch for him. On this night, Romney had New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at his side. Romney also had his wife along.
Though it's common to say that Mitt Romney has been seeking the presidency for years, Ann Romney contends there was a moment, one year ago, when he almost decided not to run.
ANN ROMNEY: And we knew there would be challengers and there would be issues and there would be problems. And then if you even got the nomination, we knew how difficult it is, but I asked him one question, and this is why we decided to run. I said, Mitt, can you save America? And his answer was yes.
INSKEEP: Protesters slipped inside the Romney event and briefly disrupted it. More protesters stood outside the event, accompanied by a trio of trombone players and supporters of one of Romney's rivals, Ron Paul. Romney's well-organized campaign has been working, in a more symbolic sense, to keep all of his opponents on the outside of this race. Those candidates are trying to fight their way back in.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So with that, please give a warm New Hampshire welcome to Speaker Gingrich. Speaker...
INSKEEP: Newt Gingrich spoke at a town hall meeting yesterday in Manchester, New Hampshire. His wife Callista stood beside him, smiling at his jokes. Gingrich is the candidate who ripped Romney's style on Sunday, accusing Romney of serving up, quote, "pious baloney." Yesterday, Gingrich displayed his own style, which relies more on superlatives. Rather than call President Obama wrong, or in over his head, Gingrich calls him...
NEWT GINGRICH: ...probably the most radical president in American history.
INSKEEP: And a follower of a radical leftist.
GINGRICH: I think that makes this in some ways the most important election in modern times because eight years of Barack Obama will fundamentally change the nature of America.
INSKEEP: Gingrich pledges to eliminate taxes he considers profoundly wrong, and says a rising American economy will help, quote, "literally everybody on the planet." For all the vivid language, the candidate's most enthusiastic moment was not during his town hall meeting but afterward when he met with reporters. He's been attacking Mitt Romney, questioning Romney's role years ago running an investment firm. Romney's rivals have increasingly attacked the front-runner because his corporate buyouts eliminated jobs as well as created them.
GINGRICH: It's pretty clear to me that at some point in the next week or so, Governor Romney is going to have to have a fairly long press conference, and he's going to have to answer a lot of questions.
INSKEEP: Gingrich's frustration is that as the nation's first primary arrives, Mitt Romney has not yet had to do any such thing. Mitt Romney has maintained the style of a presidential front-runner, forcing his opponents to try anything they can to knock him out of it.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.