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Even Before N.H. Primary, Romney Seems To Be Looking Ahead To General Election

Mitt Romney speaks during a Chamber of Commerce breakfast Monday in Nashua, N.H.
Justin Sullivan
Getty Images
Mitt Romney speaks during a Chamber of Commerce breakfast Monday in Nashua, N.H.

On Tuesday night, New Hampshire voters could catapult Mitt Romney securely onto the path of the Republican nomination, or they could undercut the air of inevitability surrounding his campaign.

The former Massachusetts governor is clearly expecting the catapult. One indication? On Monday morning, the candidate changed his rhetoric to reposition himself even more squarely as a general election candidate.

Romney started his day with a group of business leaders in Nashua, where he talked about the value of regulation and said: "Our very poor always need to have a safety net. Occasionally there are holes that need to be repaired, and I'll fix those."

Those are themes Romney did not address when he campaigned last week in Iowa and South Carolina.

In his final full day of campaigning in New Hampshire before it holds the nation's first primary, Romney also highlighted specific new examples of how he made changes to help public schools and homeless shelters as governor of Massachusetts.

And when a woman asked about selling the Republican brand, he described his plan to win over Latino voters.

"Politics is not my career," Romney told the business leaders. "My career was doing what you did, and I was successful at it. I'm now at a point where I can try and make a contribution to the country. I'm going to try and fix America. I'm not trying to fix the Republican Party, I'm trying to fix America."

Romney started to foreshadow this moderate shift over the weekend. At a debate sponsored by NBC, he talked about gay rights: "If people are looking for someone ... who will discriminate against gays, or will in any way try and suggest that people ... that have different sexual orientation don't have full rights in this country, they won't find that from me."

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Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.