Romney Focuses on Family in New Hampshire

Mitt Romney stresses the theme of strengthening the American family during campaign stops throughout New Hampshire. It's now crunch time for presidential candidates as caucus and primary voting starts right after the New Year.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This season's holiday sale ads will alternate with ads for candidates selling themselves. Caucus and primary voting starts right after the New Year. So two of the leading Republican candidates spent this past holiday weekend encouraging voters to do some comparison shopping.

Rudy Giuliani traveled across New Hampshire, and so did Mitt Romney. And they've been talking about each other. We'll report on both campaigns this morning, starting with NPR's Brian Naylor.

BRIAN NAYLOR: For a campaign that will this year mix politics and the gift-buying season, it was only appropriate that Mitt Romney's first stop yesterday was French's Toy Shop in Concord where, where with his toddler grandson Parker in his arms he was on a quest.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Republican Presidential Candidate): Hey, Laurie, do you have anything that looks like tools?

LAURIE: Tools?

Mr. ROMNEY: Tools like, you know, handsaw, hammers, screwdriver, those sort of things. Okay. Parker. Parker, let's go look over here. Let's go look over here.

NAYLOR: Inside the toy shop, Romney was happy to be the doting grandfather. Out on the sidewalk, though, he showed a tougher side as he responded to attacks from Giuliani about a judicial appointment he'd made in Massachusetts. The judge he'd appointed released a man at the end of a manslaughter sentence when prosecutors wanted to keep the man in jail to face other charges. That man is now accused of killing a young couple in Washington State. In a weekend interview, Giuliani said that Romney is going to have to explain his appointment of the judge, adding that Romney did not have a very good record on crime. Yesterday, Romney expressed surprise at Giuliani's attack.

Mr. ROMNEY: I must admit, of all the people who might attack someone on the basis of an appointment, I thought he would be the last to do so.

NAYLOR: Romney said he appointed the judge in question, a former prosecutor, on the recommendations of a review panel. He repeated his call that the judge should resign. And quickly striking back, Romney brought up the case of Bernard Kerik, Giuliani's recently indicted police commissioner.

Mr. ROMNEY: He put somebody in place as commissioner who had a very questionable past, and then recommended to the president of the United States this person to be made the secretary of Homeland Security, despite the fact that he at this point was under investigation. This is an individual who has now pled guilty to a crime, has been indicted for 16 different actions. And the idea that Mayor Giuliani would be critical of me in a circumstance where I appointed a person with a law and order record, 17 years as a prosecutor, is really a very strange development.

NAYLOR: Going a step further, Romney said Giuliani's attack, quote, "suggests a level of desperation," perhaps born out by the polls in New Hampshire, where in some surveys, Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, has a double-digit lead. Not quite done, Romney compared Giuliani with the other New Yorker running for president, Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton.

Mr. ROMNEY: He is pro-choice like Hillary Clinton. He is in favor of civil union like Hillary Clinton. He is in favor of sanctuary cities like Hillary Clinton. And the record of ethical conduct from - in this case, Bernie Kerik - reminds us very much of the administration that Hillary Clinton was part of in Washington.

NAYLOR: Romney's campaign stops yesterday stressed the theme of strengthening the American family. By campaigning with his wife of 38 years and assorted sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, Romney may have seemed to be highlighting still another contrast with the twice-divorced Giuliani. But his campaign denied that was his intention.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Keene, New Hampshire.

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