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Romney emphasizes Michigan roots to Tea Party crowd

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke last night to Tea Party supporters at the Bakers of Milford Banquet Hall in Milford, Mich.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke last night to Tea Party supporters at the Bakers of Milford Banquet Hall in Milford, Mich.Scott Olson/Getty Images

MILFORD, Mich. – Mitt Romney came to the stage here before a ballroom packed with Tea Party members tonight and proclaimed, "Good to be home, to the place of my birth."

The former Massachusetts governor, who often bring an extra dose of cheer to his native Michigan, then waxed about his upbringing – if at times a little fuzzily.

"At that time, Detroit was really the pride of the nation," he said. "This was the place everyone wanted to come. I think my dad had a job, like, being the grand master or whatever of the 50th celebration of the automobile in Detroit. They painted Woodward Avenue with gold paint."

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Perhaps noticing some skeptical looks, he quickly added, "My memory's a little foggy here. I was probably four or something like that."

"These early days of my life – I remember my first day in elementary school, kindergarten," he said. "I think it was called Hampton School, about 30, 40 kids, if I can remember right."

He also recounted his early home, which was torn down several years ago.

"It turned into, I guess, an eyesore or a place where drugs were being used," he noted. "So they had to tear it down. It was a lovely home."

Romney has struggled with the Tea Party, and polls show movement activists remain skeptical of him in Michigan. But he seemed well-received among the crowd here tonight, and a standard line from his stump speech – "I believe in America" – spurred a standing ovation.

He is campaigning in the state in advance of Tuesday's Republican presidential primary.

On the biggest sticking point that Tea Party activists have with Romney – his health care plan in Massachusetts – he amped up his critique of the federal model that was patterned after his plan.

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"On every basis I can think of - it's bad policy, it's bad spending, it's bad for American people, it's bad for the practice of medicine," Romney said. "If I'm president, we're getting rid of ObamaCare."

Romney focused all of his energy on President Obama, never mentioning his Republican opponents by name and issuing only a passing reference to Rick Santorum, who is leading in some polls here.

"People go to Washington and they vote for things that they don't believe in," Romney said. "I mean, one of the candidates last night spent most of the evening describing why it was he voted against his principles. He said, you've got to take it for the team now and then. Well my team is the people of the United States of America."

It was a reference to a line from Santorum during last night's debate, describing why he voted for No Child Left Behind even though he opposed it on principle.


Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mviser.