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“O beautiful for patriots dream that sees beyond the years,” he said. “The patriots who founded this country recognized that what they were building, what they were crafting, was something beyond their time. In fact, the choices they made in constructing the foundation of America would lead this nation to be the strongest in the earth.”

“That’s why the president at the beginning of his term apologizing…it made us heartsick. I will never apologize for the greatness of America.”

At one point, Mr. Romney asked the crowd if any of them were small businessmen, and about a dozen hands went up.

“Sometime I don’t think the president likes you very much,” he said. “I like the fact that you invest in America and create jobs.”

The first questioner, a young man with a video camera, opened his question by stating that Iowa law prohibits bets above $5,000, a reference to a $10,000 wager Mr. Romney offered Mr. Perry in a debate in early December over his position on health care.

Mr. Romney quickly shut down the questioner, looking around the room for another person to call on.

“You got another question that’s serious one?” he asked before moving on to an immigration question.

Later, after the question and answer session when Mr. Romney was shaking hands before exiting, the same young man was escorted out of the hotel after shouting more questions about the legality of Mr. Romney’s $10,000 bet in Iowa.

In another unpredictable moment, a young girl sitting in the front row at the event asked Mr. Romney if he could bring back pop rocks candy, which is no longer widely sold in stores.

Mr. Romney didn’t skip a beat.

“I used to remember those…it’s been a long time,” Mr. Romney said. “There are a lot of things I can blame on the president, I’m afraid that’s not one of them.”