Romney Loses Lead In New Gallup Poll
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
NPR National political correspondent Don Gonyea is in New Hampshire, where Romney is on a two day campaign swing. And Don, just how bad is the news for Mitt Romney in this Gallup poll?
DON GONYEA: Well, Rick Perry has been a candidate for 11 days now and he is, according to this Gallup poll - it's the first Gallup poll we've seen since he got in - he is the frontrunner, if one national poll makes a frontrunner. He's got 29 percent of the Republicans and Republican-leaning independents that they talked to. Twenty-nine percent say they support Perry. The former frontrunner, if we can call him that, Mitt Romney 17 percent, so behind by double digits. And then Ron Paul came in third, 13 percent, and Michele Bachmann, who won the Ames straw poll, 10 percent. But it is something that has gotten the Romney camp's attention, even though they say, well, polls are polls. We're not changing our strategy. Our focus is still President Obama.
BLOCK: We mentioned, Don, that you are in New Hampshire. What is Mitt Romney doing up there?
GONYEA: A lot of town halls. His schedule today: a morning town hall in the city of Keene, at a recreation center. That was a pretty low-key, even friendly event. Mitt Romney feels very comfortable here. He owns a house here. He was governor of Massachusetts. These are his kind of Republicans. Then he did a business roundtable in Claremont. Tonight, a feistier town hall at a senior citizens' center in Lebanon, a lot of pointed questions about Social Security and tax increases and climate change, so it was more combative. Then tomorrow, there's a jobs forum in Exeter. And again, bouncing all over the state, a town hall later tomorrow in the town of Dover. So he's busy while some other candidates are keeping a lighter schedule this week.
BLOCK: Now Don, one issue that has been dogging Mitt Romney is the fact that he signed a Massachusetts health care bill that became the model for the law that President Obama signed. Has that come up at the town hall today?
GONYEA: It did indeed. And having covered the '08 campaign, when then-Senator Hillary Clinton was bouncing around New Hampshire and other places and being confronted about her vote for the Iraq war, Romney signing that health care bill in Massachusetts kind of feels like the Republican version of that. People want him to apologize. People want him to admit it was a mistake. One guy stood up in Keene and said why won't you say it was a mistake? Give a listen to Governor Romney's response.
MITT ROMNEY: It wasn't perfect. Are there mistakes in there? Of course. But I'm not going to back away from the fact that I signed that bill. I'm proud of what we accomplished and one thing I can tell you is, if I'm president, I'm the guy who understands health care and I understand what happens when the federal government lays its heavy hand on our health care system and I'll reverse that and turn power back to the states where it belongs.
GONYEA: Now I went and found the guy who asked the question. His name is Mike Kapiloff(ph). He's 50 years old. He works as an insurance broker. I said, well, what'd you think of the answer? And he actually said, while he didn't get the apology or the admission of a mistake that he wanted, he was satisfied. He thought it was a good answer. Now, I can tell you a lot of members of the Tea Party who are looking at these candidates are not going to accept that as an answer. But at least on this day, Governor Romney won this one guy over on the health care issue.
BLOCK: And briefly, Rick Perry, as we said, is shaking up the race. Is Mitt Romney reacting to that fact?
GONYEA: They say they are not adjusting their strategy, that it's a long race. They admit he's a very formidable candidate; they've always said that. But really, they are going to have to start looking at him a little more than they are focusing just on the president.
BLOCK: OK. NPR's Don Gonyea in New Hampshire. Don, thanks so much.
GONYEA: Thank you.
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