Mitt Romney, the leading contender to become President Obama’s Republican opponent next year, had just finished working the room at Blake’s Creamery here when he paused for a photo with the restaurant’s owner, Ann Mirageas, and decided to tell her a joke.

“I saw the young man over there with eggs Benedict, with hollandaise sauce,” he said. “And I was going to suggest to you that you serve your eggs with hollandaise sauce in hubcaps. Because there’s no plates like chrome for the hollandaise.”