(ASHLAND, N.H.) — The Mitt Romney campaign weaved through New Hampshire Wednesday on its first day of a three-day bus tour, keeping to a busy schedule that included stops at a breakfast joint, a pizza parlor, a steel cutting factory and a spaghetti dinner.
At the first stop, Romney spoke briefly with the media, answering questions about his stance on the payroll tax extension but declining to say whether he disagreed with House Speaker John Boehner’s rejection of the bipartisan short-term extension passed by the Senate over the weekend.
“I’m not going to get into the back-and-forth on the congressional sausage making process,” said Romney, standing in the Stage Restaurant in Keene, N.H. “I hope they’re able to sit down and work out a solution that works for the American people.”
Romney’s harshest words were saved for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whom he implied would have to be ready to weather the negative advertising that is inherent in a presidential campaign.
“Speaker Gingrich has had a few less-than-generous things to say about me over the campaign, and you know I’m a big boy: That’s the nature of a campaign to point out distinctions with one another,” said Romney. “And with regards to the heat associated with ads, you know, if you can’t stand the relatively modest heat in the kitchen right now wait until Obama’s hell’s kitchen shows up.”
Gingrich responded to Romney’s kitchen analogy at his own event in Manchester, N.H., Wednesday afternoon, challenging the former Massachusetts governor to a debate.
“Look, I’ll tell you what,” said Gingrich. “If [Romney] wants to test the heat, I’ll meet him anywhere in Iowa next week, one on one, 90 minutes, no moderator, just a timekeeper.”
The rest of Romney’s day — which included hosting various journalists on his luxury motor coach for interviews in between campaign stops — was more lighthearted.
At Village Pizza in Newport, N.H., Romney ordered a small Hawaiian pizza — with olives — to go, for him and his wife, Ann, before serving more traditional pies to patrons who packed the booths during his drop by.
The next stop was a speech at Hypertherm, a plasma cutting manufacturer in Hanover, N.H., where Romney tried his hand at the tools, carving his initials into a piece of steel.
At the fourth and final stop of the day, the Romney campaign rolled into the Ashland American Legion in Ashland, N.H., where he and Ann Romney manned a winding line of hungry supporters. Mitt Romney served the spaghetti and his wife dished out the sauce.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Ryan Browne and Evan Perez, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Cimaron Neugebauer, KUTV
Theodore Schleifer, CNN