SALEM, N.H. — Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in an interview Monday dismissed concerns he’s too nice to be a viable candidate in a vicious race, proving it by taking a swipe at yet-to-announced GOP rival Fred Thompson.
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“We all get the chance to go on the talk shows. But it’s not the sort of questions you get in the debates or the town meetings that I’ve had,” Romney said in an Associated Press interview, alluding to plans by Thompson to formally announced his candidacy during a planned Wednesday night appearance on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
“The talk show circuit is fine, but the town meetings show you’re willing to listen to people and take their questions,” continued Romney.
While Thompson, the “Law & Order” television actor and former senator from Tennessee, will be in Los Angeles for the Leno show Romney will be among the GOP contenders at a Wednesday night debate in Durham., N.H.
“I think it will boost the ratings for Jay Leno’s show, but I’d rather be doing well in New Hampshire,” Romney earlier told reporters before he marched in a Labor Day parade in Milford, N.H.
Romney also took a jab as Thompson’s long delayed decision to become an official candidate for the GOP nomination.
“Well, I guess the only comment I’d make to Fred Thompson would be: Why the hurry? Why not take a little longer to think this over? From my standpoint, if he wants to wait until January or February, that would be ideal.”
But Romney in the AP interview emphasized it would be wrong to write Thompson off.
“He’s going to be getting in soon. He’s going to be on Jay Leno. I’m sure he’ll enjoy that experience. Then he’ll be part of the process,” said Romney.
While refusing to directly criticize Thompson’s campaign, Romney insisted he’s not too polite to win his Republican Party’s nomination.
‘As tough as we need to be’
“My guess is that you’re going to find that we will, at some point, contrast and compare our positions on issues,” Romney said. “We can be as tough as we need to be. But I think the best kind of campaign is one where we can focus on issues, our background and our experiences. ... Campaigns have their own energy and we’ll see where it leads.”
On another subjects during the interview Monday, Romney said he believes Idaho Sen. Larry Craig did the right thing to resign from the Senate after he was caught in a sex sting in a men’s room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
“Certainly, it was his decision to make. It was between himself and his conscience and his fellow citizens in Idaho. He made the decision he thought was best. And I support his decision,” said Romney.
Craig had been Senate liaison for Romney’s campaign. Romney moved quickly after the incident became public to remove Craig from his campaign and at the time called Craig’s conduct “disappointing and disgraceful.”
Romney, who has been dogged by charges he reversed his positions on key conservative issues such as abortion, said Monday that nothing has stuck because he’s not alone in changing his mind as he got more information.
“My guess is that everybody who is running for president, at least among the top tier, have changed their mind on a number of issues. I hope they have the courage to point out where they have and why they changed their mind,” he said.
Romney earlier Monday marched in a Labor Day parade in Milford and made other stops to greet voters. New Hampshire voters will note who is there — and who is not, he said.
“I think people will notice there have been a bunch of guys who have been working real hard to get to know voters across the country,” Romney said.
As for Thompson’s entry, Romney quipped: “I think he’ll have some fun. We’re going to presumably have some debates with him. We’ll have had five without him.”
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