Tales from the Trail

Romney on his work as a Mormon missionary: “We didn’t convert one person”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, where co-host Joe Scarborough asked him about his experience as a Mormon missionary in France in the 1960s. “Talk about your rejections as a missionary knocking on door, after door, after door in a hostile environment,” Scarborough asked.

Romney recalled five months he spent in one French city, where he said near-constant brush-offs built his resilience:

“We knocked on doors from morning until quite late in the evening,” he said. “We didn’t convert one person in five months. So, you understand the rejection, you know that’s a pretty high level of rejection and you get used to it. You say, ‘okay, what do I believe, what’s important to me,’ and you don’t measure yourself and your success by how other people react, but instead by how you’re doing and how you feel about the things you care about.”

Watch the clip below (Romney speaks about his experience as a missionary starting at the 2:00 mark):

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Credit: MSNBC

Battered by negative ads, Gingrich calls for Republican truce


A still from “Selling Access,” a recent ad released by the Ron Paul campaign.

Newt Gingrich is waving a white flag in the ad wars. As the most recent Republican frontrunner, he’s become the target of attacks from Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and the the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future.

Many of the attacks have focused on Gingrich’s consulting work for Freddie Mac in the run up to the financial crisis and the collapse of the housing market. Today his campaign announced a petition urging Republicans to stop attacking each other–and presumably to stop bringing up his work for Freddie.

In New Hampshire, fringe candidates get their moment


Bipartisanship flourishes among fringe candidates. Democrat Vermin Supreme and Republican Hugh Cort share a laugh before Monday night’s debate at Saint Anselm College.

New Hampshire voters looking for something different got to size up some other presidential candidates on Monday night. The questions were pointed, the answers often succinct, sensible and serious. But some of the platforms were narrowly focused and, well, a bit wacky.

“I’m here to tell you about thorium, an overlooked energy alternative,” said Robert Greene, a Democrat from Mountain View, California. “If politicians are having any discussion that does not include thorium, they have not had a serious energy discussion.”

Mitt Romney’s Late Show Top 10 Redux

It was like deja vu with Mitt Romney when the Republican presidential candidate presented the “Top Ten” list on the “Late Show with David Letterman” Monday night.

The script was different, and so were the clothes – but Romney’s latest late night TV performance looked and sounded a lot like the the previous one he gave  back in February.

This time, the former Massachusetts governor revealed the “Top Ten Things Mitt Romney Would Like to Say to the American People.”

from Political Theater:

Ron Paul says Michele Bachmann “hates Muslims”

Ron Paul was on The Tonight Show last night, where Jay Leno asked him to say a little something about the other Republican candidates for president. Mitt Romney, according to Paul, is "a nice guy." Newt Gingrich should "run for Speaker of the House again," and Jon Huntsman is "a good diplomat" and " a thoughtful person."

And Michele Bachmann? Well, "she doesn't like Muslims," Paul said. "She hates Muslims. She wants to go get 'em." Rick Santorum, too, has a preoccupation with "gay people and Muslims."

Here's the clip:

from Political Theater:

New anti-Romney ad rekindles — er, mocks? — Francophobia

Back in 2002, Mitt Romney welcomed francophone volunteers to the Salt City Olympics with a friendly introductory video he recorded in French. It's "an incredible experience in your life," said Romney, who spent more than two years in France as a Mormon missionary in the 1960s. "The kind that you live only once."

It's been years since freedom fries and freedom toast were items on the menu at House of Representatives cafes, and bumper stickers proclaiming "Iraq first, France next!" long ago went out of fashion. But AmericanLP, a new, self-identified "progressive" SuperPAC, is betting that the little video message was a blunder.

In a new ad the group is circulating around the internet and running on MSNBC, CNBC, and Bloomberg TV this week, the clip of Romney speaking French is mock-subtitled with a string of past comments -- that he has since retracted -- on topics including abortion, climate change, and immigration.

New Romney video highlights old praise from Gingrich

Newt Gingrich Praises Mitt Romney in 2010

Mitt Romney’s campaign is out today with a new web video featuring a February 2010 speech by rival Newt Gingrich in which he praised Romney’s business acumen.

“Governor Romney in his business career created more jobs than the entire Obama cabinet combined, so he could actually talk about it,” said Gingrich in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Romney’s camp liked the quote so much they actually run it twice in the ad, interspersed with graphics saying Romney “saved” the 2002 Winter Olympics and that he eliminated a $3 billion budget shortfall in Massachusetts.

Gingrich faces down protests at brain science event

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich defended himself against attacks from his rivals on Wednesday when he ran into a sustained protest at what was supposed to be a low-key event about the human brain.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is trying to hang on to a lead in Iowa to score a victory in the state’s Jan. 3 caucuses, the first U.S. nominating contest in the Republican race to choose a 2012 presidential candidate.

But to do it he will have to overcome sustained negative ads and daily attacks from his rivals, such as a comment Mitt Romney made to The New York Times on Wednesday calling him “zany.”

Romney identified as ‘progressive’ in 2002 interview

YouTube just has no love for Mitt Romney. In a newly surfaced video circulating online, Romney is shown telling a television reporter during his 2002 campaign for Massachusetts governor that he sees himself as “moderate” and “progressive” — labels most candidates in this year’s Republican primary have tried to avoid. At least one of Romney’s rivals, Jon Huntsman — whom many consider to be the only other moderate in the Republican race — is sending the video to reporters.

In the clip, Romney is shown telling a reporter:

“I think people recognize that I’m not a partisan Republican, that I’m someone who is moderate and my views are progressive, and that I’m going to go to work for our senior citizens, for people that have been left behind, for urban schools that are not doing the right job, and so they’re going to vote for me regardless of the party label.”

Here’s the video; Romney’s comments begin at the 0:40 mark:

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Credit: Akaczynski1/YouTube

Romney uses Mormon faith to deflect attention from wealth

Romney rarely has spoken about his religion during the primary campaign, conscious perhaps of polls showing that as many as half of white evangelicals believe the Mormon religion is not a Christian faith. In one of the few times he has highlighted his church, he made Rick Perry seem intolerant for refusing to disavow Pastor Robert Jeffress’s assertion that Mormonism is a “cult.”

Now Romney is talking about Mormonism in order to head off the perception that he’s an out-of-touch rich guy  — a view reinforced by his attempt to silence Perry’s attacks on his healthcare record by offering him a $10,000 bet during Saturday’s Republican presidential debate. Given his personal wealth, estimated at $250 million, Romney needs to avoid any more moments that make him look like Judge Elihu Smails, the country club president from “Caddyshack” who tried to use his money and background to purge the club of undesirables like the brash outsider Al Czervik, played by Rodney Dangerfield (and, yes, Caddyshack culminated in a bet between the two).

Today at a lumber mill in northern New Hampshire, Romney hearkened back to his ten years spent moonlighting as a Mormon pastor while living in Boston. That work included counseling those who had lost their jobs or were in dire financial circumstances. “What struck me, not having grown up in poverty, was revealing and important to me,” he said.