Exeter is Romney's last N.H. stop
Mitt Romney (R)
Former Governor, MA
Born: 03/12/1947
Birthplace: Michigan, CT
Home: Belmont, MA
Religion: Mormon
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EXETER Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will visit Exeter this weekend as local Republican activists share mixed feelings on his campaign.

Romney will end a day of New Hampshire visits in Exeter on Sunday with an "Ask Mitt Anything" meeting at 5:45 p.m. at Town Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

He'll begin the day at 12:45 p.m. at the annual summer GOP luncheon at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua and will then visit a house party in Salem.

"I think he's an excellent candidate and I am looking forward to seeing him," said Stratham's Marilyn Smyk, of the Tri-Town Republican Committee, which is made up of Exeter, North Hampton and Stratham residents. "It's still a little early, but I don't think we could go wrong with him as president."

Smyk said Romney has impressed her in his handling of the campaign.

"Just in all aspects," she said. "He has handled the questioning and the points that are important to me very well but I won't start listing them."

Mark Sykas, chairman of the Tri-Town Republican Committee, said Romney has an impressive track record.

"His public service in being Massachusetts' governor, as well as saving the Olympics as well as his accomplishments in the business world show to me that he has the capabilities to deal with problems as they arise," Sykas said. "When we look at people's track records, what we are really trying to do is figure out who can handle the problems that have yet to come over the horizon."

County Commissioner Maureen Barrows, who has gone public in her support for Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, said there is no question Romney is a "good and decent man." But she questions whether he has the "gravitas" she believes is needed for the times.

"I need someone who will be able to stand up to the crazies around the world, Barrows said. "I also want to see someone who is in support of stem-cell research. The candidate I most admire and feel most fits the bill is John McCain."

State Rep. Lee Quandt, R-Exeter, said Romney's campaign "is chugging along," but he is "not enthused about any of the top tier candidates."

While Quandt said Romney seems to be leading the pack right now, he added, "I don't think it would be much for a second tier candidate to jump up and take the lead."

Quandt said he is not ready to make a commitment to a particular candidate yet, but Romney could do well.

"He wants health care for everybody, which is something we all would like to see. The only problem is who is going to pay for it and how is it going to be delivered," he said. "I'm still waiting to see how his health-care program works out in Massachusetts. It if blows up, he's all done. If it comes close to working well, he'll maintain a fairly strong status."

Whether they support Romney or not, many agree that presidential visits such as his are an important and exciting thing for Exeter and the state.

"I think that's what we want and need in New Hampshire and I think that we appreciate it," Sykas said.

"It is certainly good for the citizens of Exeter to get out and have the opportunity to meet all of the candidates," Barrows said. "I would love to see more of them come. It's just wonderful for our young people to see these persons of power up-close and personal."

In addition to his New Hampshire visits, Romney's campaign kicked off two more initiatives this week including "Sign-Up New Hampshire," a phone bank with a goal of calling 10,000 homes in the state throughout the week.

Romney also launched his newest television advertisement, "Ocean," this week in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In it, Romney discusses his belief that we need to look at the culture that surrounds America's children and "clean up the ocean in which our children now swim."

Barrows said voters need to closely examine the total picture of candidates and who has the most experience. But, she said, she worries about how influential television advertisements can be.

"It's name recognition and if you see a commercial on a regular basis I think that name is going to come to the forefront," she said. "I don't know how deep his support is. I can only say that he is a good and decent man."


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney visits in Exeter Sunday at a meeting at Town Hall at 5:45 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5:20 p.m. To RSVP call 836-0141.