Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said President Barack Obama’s “old school” liberal policies have caused middle class families to lose income, jobs, homes and hope.
Romney, in a speech in Lansing, Michigan, sought to distinguish himself as a champion of free enterprise and smaller government. He said Obama has presided over a bigger government that threatens the country with European-style stagnation and debt.
“Obama promised change, hope, but reality won out,” Romney told several hundred people at Lansing Community College. “His four years have been disappointing, a catastrophe for some of us.”
Romney said as president he’d promote more freedom for Americans to choose health insurance and schools and would repeal the president’s health-care plan. He said he would also reinvigorate U.S. manufacturing with new policies for energy, trade and labor.
“Government will be the partner, not the master,” Romney said in his 22-minute speech, saying his experience as a corporate-turnaround specialist gives him a better grasp of how to promote growth. “Government will be small enough for business to grow fast enough.”
It was Romney’s first campaign appearance in Michigan, his native state, since winning the Republican primary there in February.
The appearance came amid a flap over Romney’s recent claims that he influenced Obama’s decision to rescue General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC. Romney had opposed the administration’s bailout of 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,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, in a conference call with reporters before the speech today.
“This is a candidate who will literally say anything, who thinks his statements don’t matter,” LaBolt said. He compared Romney to an Etch A Sketch, the toy that allows drawings sketched with knobs to be erased by shaking it to create a blank screen for another sketch.
Romney’s appearance at the 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 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.
‘All the Stops’
Romney’s campaign has come a long way since the Michigan Republican primary in February, when he was locked in a tight race with former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, said Bill Ballenger, publisher of Lansing-based Inside Michigan Politics.
“He’s going to pull out all the stops here,” Ballenger said of Romney. He said Obama must win Michigan to win the presidency, though historically Republicans have won while losing in Michigan.
Romney, son of George Romney, the late former Michigan governor, was born and raised in the state. George Romney was an automotive executive before he served as governor.
An early April survey of 600 likely voters by Lansing-based EPIC/MRA found Obama leading Romney, 47 percent to 43 percent.
A USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday showed Romney in a virtual tie with Obama in 12 battleground states, including Michigan. Obama had led Romney in a hypothetical match-up in late March, 51 percent to 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll of swing-state voters.
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