Mitt Romney will return Friday to the Scamman farm, a sprawling 200-acre property located in New Hampshire's seacoast region. The farm is an important landmark for the Romney campaign -- it's where he kicked off his 2012 presidential bid last June.
The farm, located in Stratham, has strong Republican ties beyond the Romney connection. It's owned by Doug and Stella Scamman, two former Republican state representatives. In 2004, George W. Bush held a large rally at the site during his reelection bid. And in 2010, an effort to preserve the farm using federal funds was successfully championed by a Romney supporter and the Republican chair of Stratham's Board of Selectmen, David Canada.
That effort resulted in the Scamman farm receiving $950,000 through the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. The federal funds were matched by contributions from the town.
"It's an iconic part of Stratham history," Canada said in 2010.
The large farm, which dates back to the early 1900s, needed the influx of cash to avoid being turned into housing developments. The land has since been preserved for agricultural and recreational use.
It's unlikely that Romney will address the farm's nearly $1 million boost from federal coffers during Friday's event. However, a similarly historic landmark in another New Hampshire small town was recently the subject of Romney's mockery.
Last month, Romney blasted the restoration of Hillsborough's Sawyer Bridge as an example of the Obama administration's wasteful spending. That project cost the federal government about $150,000 in stimulus money -- $800,000 less than the Scamman farm's preservation price tag. Like the Scamman farm, the Sawyer Bridge has been a beloved feature of the town for decades. Thanks to its restoration, the 19th-century stone bridge is now surrounded by a public park and bike trails. Similarly, a portion of the Scamman land was preserved for year-round recreation like hiking, hunting and cross-country skiing.
"You know, we have to ask ourselves if we are just going to spend money without regard to how critical it is and borrow money from China to pay these things, knowing that our kids are going to have to pay it off," Romney said of the Sawyer Bridge last month. "New Hampshire values say you don't spend money like that."
New Hampshire residents may disagree with the former Massachusetts governor's assessment of their values. Both the Sawyer Bridge restoration and Scamman farm preservation drew heavy support from Granite Staters, who take ownership in their state's history. That sense of ownership can override partisan divides -- funding the Sawyer Bridge project passed the New Hampshire legislature with overwhelming support from the state's Republican leaders, many of whom now back Romney.
Democrats have accused Romney of being hypocritical, but Romney spokesman Ryan Williams on Thursday told Manchester's Union Leader that the line of attack was "tired."
"The Obama administration is proposing more of the same liberal economic policies that have failed to create jobs," Williams told the paper. "Unemployment has increased from 7.8 percent to 8.2 percent under President Obama because his big-government agenda -- including the $787 billion stimulus boondoggle -- has not put people back to work. Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney understands that the private sector is not 'doing fine' and he will promote pro-growth policies that will turn around our struggling economy."
Canada, the Stratham Republican who backed the farm preservation, also told the Union Leader that because the farm did not receive federal stimulus funding, the project should not be subject to the same scrutiny as the Sawyer Bridge.
According to Romney, projects like the Sawyer Bridge restoration that are "intended to make people happy" are not deserving of federal dollars.
"The president spends money to make people happy," Romney said last month in an interview with WMUR after his appearance at the bridge, which he called a "Bridge to Nowhere." "Look, I spend money on things that are absolutely critical. And one thing that I believe is critical and morally required is to stop spending money that we don’t have."
Romney's latest New Hampshire stop marks the beginning of a five-day bus tour through small towns in swing states. After his Scamman farm appearance, the candidate will head to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan to meet with families and business owners.
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