MANCHESTER, NH — If you were to guess the location of a Mitt Romney campaign event, what would it be?
A corporate office? A country club?
Try both. This morning in New Hampshire, the former Massachusetts Governor appeared at the Timberland world headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire, and then moved to the Nashua Country Club in Nashua. His appearances in both locations, along with multiple events by Senator John McCain also held today, illustrate why Romney will likely get beaten by his main competitor in tomorrow's primary election.
Romney has held campaign events at corporate headquarters before; a campaign official today could identify at least three, including today's at Timberland. The crowds are always sizable, said the official, and the campaign doesn't need to work to turn out attendees since they are already at the site for their day jobs. But if Governor Romney is anticipating a conservative and business-friendly audience, he's mistaken.
For beginners, Timberland is a progressive company, committed to social responsibility. It uses soy-based inks and 100 percent recycled post-consumer waste fiber boxes. People attending today's event passed solar arrays out front and displays in the lobby that demonstrated how the company takes advantage of recycling opportunities (next to a giant pile of plastic bottles was a sign explaining that Timberland uses recycled plastic to make the lining of its boots). The company houses and sponsors the non-profit organization City Year.
So when I headed into the event's auditorium, I suspected Romney wasn't hitting his target audience. Before the event began, I surveyed people and found I was right. Of the 17 people I spoke with, two said they were committed to Romney, one said she was leaning toward him, and the other 14 said they were "learning more about him," which could mean they were considering him or just playing hooky from work.
Ten of the 17 called themselves independents, four said they were conservatives, and three said they were liberals. Not the right mix for someone who has tried to position himself to the right of his opponents on issues like national security, immigration, and gay marriage. After Romney finished speaking, he turned to the crowd for questions. People were slow to rise to their feet. Eventually, three people did ask questions, one of whom was distributing leaflets on Israel beforehand and used her question to promote her agenda. The same lack of excitement characterized Romney's crowds in Iowa a few days before he lost to Mike Huckabee in that state's caucuses.
Afterwards, I poked my head into the cafeteria and found five City Year employees, all young men and women. I asked if any of them were more likely to vote for Romney after the event. I got grimaces and awkward giggles. Most stared at the table. None responded.