WOLFEBORO, N.H. - In the two days before the start of his big convention, Mitt Romney stepped in and out of his sport-utility vehicle six times. He publicly uttered nine sentences. And he apparently interacted with no voters.
As he prepares to formally accept the Republican presidential nomination, Romney has stayed off the campaign trail. Instead, he spent the past three days and two nights at his lakefront estate here, secluded in this tranquil New England resort town that is both geographically and psychically distant from the GOP's ground zero in Tampa.
Following a boisterous rally Saturday morning in Ohio with his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney flew to New Hampshire, where he spent the rest of the weekend relaxing with his wife, Ann. They left their home only three times - to go to church on Sunday morning and for two speech rehearsal sessions at the gymnasium of Brewster Academy, a private prep school in Wolfeboro a few minutes from the Romney residence.
Almost all of Romney's advisers already had gone to Tampa, but Stuart Stevens, his top political strategist, was here, helping them put the finishing touches on their convention speeches. Stevens, wearing shorts, coached them as they practiced in front of teleprompters at Brewster.
Asked by reporters on Monday morning how his speech prep was going, Romney said, "I like my speech. I really like Ann's speech." He added that his wife was "going to do terrific."
When a reporter asked him for a sneak peek of his address, Romney playfully demurred. He previewed just five words: "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen."
Following a final prep session Monday morning, Romney drove to his home in Belmont, Mass., just outside of Boston. Once his Secret Service motorcade delivered him there at 1:09 p.m., he remained in his small town house the rest of the day.
Ann Romney spent the afternoon in their kitchen baking hundreds of Welsh cakes, which an aide said she would give to friends in Tampa when she arrives on Tuesday.
Even as much of the nation is focused on him, with television networks airing biographical documentaries and the cable news pundits chattering around the clock from Tampa, Romney sough to avoid the spotlight.
In his few appearances before a small pool of reporters, he appeared relaxed. Arriving at a speech prep session at Brewster on Sunday afternoon, Mitt Romney's hair blew in the summer breeze (he did not appear to have any product in it) and he was dressed casually, in an untucked white polo shirt with the logo of Hillsboro Ford Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram.
Romney said his thoughts were with the people in Tropical Storm Isaac's path, but he seemed upbeat about his disrupted convention.
"Our sons are already in Tampa," he told reporters Monday. "They say it's terrific there, a lot of great friends, and we're looking forward to a great convention."