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Romney's Announcement Opens the Gates in N.H.

By Erin McPike - June 3, 2011

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Perhaps most interesting, Romney used the word "Republican" only once. The context: He said it didn't matter whether the family whose Las Vegas home he visited in April in a foreclosure-riddled neighborhood was Republican or Democrat, just that they were Americans.

"Conservative" and "conservatism" never appeared in the prepared text, and he didn't discuss ideology or refer to any of his rivals other than Obama, even indirectly. (His advisers uniformly say that is a big difference between this campaign and the one in '08; one asked if Jon Huntsman was even running, and they seem unconcerned with other candidates' trajectories.)

Democrats, meanwhile, hammered Romney for his past pattern of flip-flopping on issues, while some of his Republican rivals' camps floated comparisons of his record on jobs to their own candidate's. Several potential opponents criticized him outright.

What's more, Romney's speech came just a few hours before former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin headed into the state for her first visit here since 2008. Earlier in the day, she attacked Romney for the health care plan he guided to passage in the Bay State, telling reporters he needed to explain his support for an individual mandate.

Asked about Palin's plans to debut in New Hampshire on the heels of his announcement, Romney simply called her "terrific," adding, "New Hampshire is action central today."

Later Thursday, 2008 candidate Rudy Giuliani headlined the state GOP's speaker series in Dover and, like Palin, told reporters that health care would be Romney's problem in the nomination fight.

Just two hours after Romney wrapped up his announcement, about a dozen New Hampshire-based aides to Huntsman's presidential effort were meeting in the lobby of the Manchester Radisson, going over plans for the former Utah governor's three-day barnstorming of the state beginning Friday afternoon.

Huntsman will begin with an evening cruise on a lake in the central part of the state for the Belknap County Lincoln Day Dinner. On Saturday, he'll head up to the Grand Hotel in North Conway and then make key stops in North Country the rest of the weekend -- for a grand total of 11 stops in what Republican strategists say are critical areas to hit.

Ironically, Romney made a similar trek through the northern part of the state just prior to launching his candidacy four years ago. On Feb. 1, 2007, he visited some of the same towns Huntsman will travel to, including Lancaster and Berlin.

On Thursday evening, Romney headed back to Boston for what strategist Ron Kaufman estimated would be one of the largest Republican fundraisers in Bean Town in recent memory. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown was expected to appear.

But Romney was scheduled to head right back to New Hampshire on Friday morning for a town-hall meeting in Manchester. He's also set to attend the Republican debate on the campus of St. Anselm College on Monday, June 13.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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