AMES, Iowa — Iowans have spent the last week getting to know Mitt Romney as presidential candidate, businessman and ... performance artist?

As Romney has rolled across the state on a three-day bus tour, he has been breaking into song — or at least reciting the lyrics of his favorite patriotic anthems.

"I love that song: 'O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,'" Romney said of "America the Beautiful" at a stop in Mason City on Thursday. "If you count corn as an amber wave of grain, why, you have them right here. What a wonderful place this is."

At a stop in Cedar Falls, Romney waxed poetic about the history of the national anthem. "I've been talking about music lately," he said. "I happen to love the patriotic songs of America."

Romney often eases into the musical portion of his speech while saying how much he loves the country, the unspoken assertion being that he cares for the nation in a way that President Barack Obama never will.

"The president said he wants to fundamentally transform America," Romney said on Wednesday in North Liberty. "I kind of like America. I'm not looking for it to be fundamentally transformed into something else. I don't want it to become like Europe."

He continued, "I want America to be more like America, if you will. I want the songs, that patriotism we have."

He then began quoting directly from his favorite verses of "America the Beautiful."On Wednesday, when he first used the line about corn counting as an amber wave of grain, he was met with pin-drop silence.

He tried it again at the next few events, to polite laughter. By Thursday night, at a rally in Ames, Romney had perfected his delivery.

"If corn qualifies as an amber wave of grain, we have it right here," Romney said as the crowd applauded and cheered.

Romney exalted: "It does! It does!"