Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney returned to his native state of Michigan yesterday to criticize “old school” liberal policies of President Barack Obama that he said have cost the middle class income, jobs and amenities including vacations.
Romney, on a day when three more primary victories moved him closer to officially clinching his party’s nomination, said he would champion free enterprise, smaller government and more manufacturing jobs.
“Obama promised change, hope, but reality won out,” Romney said in a speech to several hundred people at a community college in Lansing, Michigan. “His four years have been disappointing, a catastrophe for some of us.”
Romney’s comments represented a counterattack after Obama, in his first official re-election campaign appearances, branded the former Massachusetts governor as a “rubber stamp” for Republican policies that hurt the middle class.
The stop in Michigan was Romney’s first since his three-percentage-point win in the state’s Feb. 28 primary helped him thwart former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s challenge.
With U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas as the only other active candidate in the Republican race, Romney cruised to primary victories yesterday in Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia. He got about 65 percent of the vote in Indiana and North Carolina, with most precincts reporting in the Associated Press tally, and was close to 70 percent in West Virginia.
Romney now has more than 900 delegates of the 1,144 needed for the nomination, according to the AP.
North Carolina Amendment
Also yesterday in North Carolina, voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, the amendment was favored by 61 percent, opposed by 39 percent, according to AP. The state already has a law prohibiting same-sex marriage.
The passage came two days after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in a national television interview that he supported gay marriage -- a position that goes further than Obama’s stance. Obama backs equal rights for gays, while stopping short of endorsing same-sex marriage.
Romney’s mid-day Michigan appearance signaled that his campaign may intend a serious general-election challenge to Obama in a state where his father, the late George Romney, was an automotive executive and governor.
Fighting for Michigan
To win Michigan -- reliably Democratic in every presidential vote since 1992 -- Romney must overcome the backlash stirred by his previous opposition to the federal bailout of the U.S. auto industry.
“I think he’s going to pull out all the stops here,” Bill Ballenger, publisher of Lansing-based Inside Michigan Politics, said of Romney.
An early April survey of 600 likely voters by Lansing-based EPIC/MRA found Obama leading Romney, 47 percent to 43 percent.
In Lansing, Romney blamed Obama’s policies for helping to erode the standard of living for many middle-class Americans.
“For a lot of folks, things like vacations, movies and restaurants are things of the past,” he said.
Romney said that as president he would promote more freedom for Americans to choose health insurance and schools, and would repeal “Obamacare,” the national health-care law. He would also reinvigorate U.S. manufacturing with new policies for energy, trade and labor, he said.
“Government will be the partner, not the master,” Romney said in his 22-minute speech. “Government will be small enough for business to grow fast enough.”
The appearance came amid a flap over Romney’s recent claims that he influenced Obama’s decision to rescue General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. Romney had opposed a government-assisted bankruptcy for the automakers in a New York Times editorial in 2008.
Romney’s taking credit for the auto industry’s comeback during an ABC television interview in Cleveland is “preposterous,” Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, said in a conference call with reporters.
“This is a candidate who will literally say anything, who thinks his statements don’t matter,” LaBolt said.
Romney’s appearance at a community college was ironic because college tuition in Massachusetts soared when he was governor there, said Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. He also said a GM plant near the auditorium where Romney appeared would have been closed if Romney had his way and denied federal aid to the automaker.
Romney is also traveling to raise campaign money. Among his fundraising stops in Florida next week is the Miami-area home of Phillip Frost, chairman of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., whose products include Plan B One-Step, a so-called “morning-after” pill for women who have unprotected sex.
The company’s website says the drug contains the ingredient found in many birth-control pills and “should not affect or terminate an existing pregnancy.”
That’s at odds with what Romney has said about it. Campaigning in Colorado in February, he described the drug as “abortive pills” and called the Obama administration’s decision to require employers to cover them in their health plans as “a violation of conscience.”
Romney’s campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, didn’t respond to a request for comment on how the candidate, who opposes abortion rights, could accept support from the maker of “abortive pills.”