NASHUA, N.H. -- Mitt Romney and Herman Cain both used unusually harsh language to denounce the Occupy Wall Street movement as the left-wing insurgency celebrated its second-month anniversary with a series of protests in cities across the country. It was one of the few similarities between the candidates on a day that a Cain visit to this Romney-friendly territory highlighted the contrasts in their styles.
In New Hampshire on Thursday, Cain accused the protesters of "trying to destroy the greatest nation in the world" with plans to stop traffic and subway commuters. He accused them of trying "to infringe upon people's right and liberty to go to work."
The previous day, Romney told conservative commentator Sean Hannity in a radio interview that the demonstrators are lawbreakers. "I salute the fact that the mayors have finally wakened up to this," said Romney, referring to actions in New York and elsewhere to remove the OWS tent cities. "I wish they had done it earlier."
Romney, who has not done as well with tea party supporters as Cain, was careful to distinguish the tea party from the Occupy movement. The conservative insurgents "have followed the law," he said.
Cain delivered his remarks on the protests in front of about 75 supporters in Nashua, many of whom were members of the tea party. It was his third stop of the day in New Hampshire - a state he last visited Oct. 12, according to field director Charlie Spano. Cain began the morning by signing candidacy paperwork at the statehouse in Concord - a purely symbolic effort designed to attract cameras, as the deadline to file passed weeks ago and Cain already had mailed in the necessary forms.
But many of his rivals filed in person and got a public relations bonanza. When Mitt Romney and Rick Perry signed the same sheet, droves of media swarmed the building; Perry had about 100 supporters lining the halls to watch him file and Romney double that. By contrast, Cain had none. Nor did he draw much attention on a visit to a Manchester diner. At one point, he asked a young woman if she was a student; she responded that she actually worked at a pizza parlor. He told her that he used to run a pizza company himself, a fact she seemed unaware of.
Cain's planned meeting with the editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader, but the meeting was abruptly cancelled - the campaign and paper each blaming the other.
Cain made no pretense about his potential in New Hampshire, where the first presidential primary will take place Jan. 10 and where Romney owns a vacation home and is well known from his tenure as governor of neighboring Massachusetts. He made multiple references throughout the day to the fact that Romney is well ahead of him in the here - the latest Bloomberg poll showing Romney winning New Hampshire with 40 percent of the vote, Cain second with 17 percent. "I'm going to be realistic and hope we can come in second," Cain said. "That would be a huge win."
In another contrast to the buttoned-down Romney, the embattled Cain seemed to relish the opportunity to make headlines, leaving a trail of satirical sound-bites in his wake as he crisscrossed the state. In Concord, when reporters asked if holiday time with his family would mean more to him than in past years, the candidate battling sexual harassment allegations teased: "No - we do it every year! This might shock you but Thanksgiving comes every year!"
Later in Nashua Cain joked with the crowd about his much covered "pause" taken when he was answering a question about Libya recently and poking fun at the media's attention to the story. "They spend more time focusing on when I'm not talking then when the other candidates are talking," he said. "Here's the point that they're missing: I think before I speak. I know that's a novel idea."
He added, "The people that are on the Cain train don't get off because of that crap. And I know that's not a politically correct word."