BOSTON — He insists he’s not running for president a third time, but Mitt Romney is campaigning again in New Hampshire.
The former Republican presidential nominee is set to endorse Senate candidate Scott Brown on Wednesday, campaigning publicly in New Hampshire for the first time since the early hours of Election Day 2012 as he continues a larger effort to re-emerge as a force in Republican politics.
The day is supposed to be focused on Brown’s quest to defeat Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this fall. But Romney’s return to the state where he began and ended his last presidential campaign looms over the Senate endorsement.
The afternoon rally is being held at Scamman’s Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, New Hampshire, the same location where the former Massachusetts governor formally launched his last presidential campaign.
“New Hampshire knows Mitt Romney well, and not just because he won the presidential primary here,” Brown says in prepared remarks released by his campaign. “We know him as the upright and capable man we wish were president right now. Mitt Romney fought the good fight in 2012, and he’s here today to help us win that fight in 2014.”
Brown cast his Senate contest as a referendum on President Barack Obama less than two years after the president defeated Romney by more than 5 points among New Hampshire general election voters.
“This election is America’s last chance to pass judgment on the performance of President Obama,” Brown says. “He’s not on the ballot, but his biggest supporter in the Senate is Jeanne Shaheen, and the president needs her back.”
Democrats in turn attacked Romney in a conference call on the eve of the visit.
“Scott, we have news for you,” state Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley said in a message aimed at Brown. “Mitt Romney has no credibility in New Hampshire. … We haven’t forgotten his ’47 percent’ comments.”
Buckley referred to comments Romney made in the last campaign that Obama had the support of the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes and who consider themselves “victims” and don’t “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” His campaign never fully recovered from the intense criticism his comments sparked.
Romney’s loss to Obama effectively pushed him into political exile. But he has been playing a growing role in national Republican affairs ahead of the November midterm elections.
So far this year, he has endorsed more than 30 candidates running for statewide office or for Congress in two dozen states, although he has appeared publicly in only a handful. Despite the re-emergence, Romney has repeatedly said he will not run for president again in 2016.
“I think there are an awful lot of people who would love to see him run again,” said longtime adviser Ron Kaufman. “Having said that, I think he has no intention to run.”