(Updates with Florida speech, starting in first paragraph. For more campaign news, go to ELECT.)
May 16 (Bloomberg) -- Mitt Romney, attacking President Barack Obama for the second consecutive day for swelling the federal debt, said the president has done “almost nothing to fix” the deficits amassed over eight years by former President George W. Bush.
Obama as a candidate “was very critical of his predecessor, because the predecessor put together $4 trillion of debt over eight years,” Romney said in a speech in St. Petersburg, where he began a two-day campaign and fundraising swing through Florida, a hotly contested state. “He said that doing that was unpatriotic -- irresponsible and unpatriotic -- and he said he would cut the debt in half if he became president. Instead he doubled it.”
Romney, speaking the day after Bush made an impromptu endorsement of him as he boarded an elevator at an event in Washington, said while Republicans and Democrats share blame for running up deficits, Obama has made the problem worse.
“It sure is true that you can’t blame one party or the other for all the debts that this country has, because both parties, in my opinion, spent too much and borrowed too much when they were in power,” Romney told about 400 voters at the Mirror Lake Lyceum, a banquet hall in downtown St. Petersburg where he spoke in front of a digital clock displaying the national debt and each taxpayer’s share of it.
“I find it incomprehensible that a president could come to office and call his predecessor’s record irresponsible and unpatriotic, and then do almost nothing to fix it.”
Romney yesterday began his effort to use the rising U.S. debt as a campaign cudgel against Obama in a politically competitive state. Campaigning in Des Moines, Iowa, Romney criticized the $831 billion stimulus enacted near the start of Obama’s term and said the president failed to hold down joblessness as he promised to -- criticisms he echoed today.
He reiterated his pledge to shutter some federal agencies, return other programs to states and repeal the health-care law enacted in 2010 at Obama’s prodding.
Romney reprised his analogy of the federal debt to a prairie fire visible in the distance. “You don’t say, ‘I’m going to go to bed, because the wind might change; you instead look for someone that says, ‘I’m going to take responsibility and fix this -- put it out,’ ” he said. “It’s high time that we have a president that will stop this spending and borrowing inferno, and I will.”
Romney’s concerns about the debt have been shrugged off by financial markets, where Treasuries are rallying. Yields on the government’s benchmark 10-year notes fell to 1.78 percent at noon New York time from this year’s high of 2.40 percent almost two months ago, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader data. The yield is 11 basis points, or 0.11 percentage point, above the record low and the rates are about a quarter of the 50-year annual average of 6.49 percent.
Romney today played down the partisan nature of the deficit conflict at a time when U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, is setting the stage for another showdown with Democrats over raising the debt ceiling. A prolonged stalemate over an increase last year between congressional Republicans and Republicans led to a downgrade of the U.S.’s AAA credit rating by Standard & Poor’s in early August.
Romney yesterday pointed to former President Bill Clinton as a model for Obama to more closely follow.
“Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over,” he said. “President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship.”
Romney added: “Maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons.”
Obama appointed Hillary Clinton, his chief rival in the 2008 Democratic presidential race and the former president’s wife, as his secretary of state.
--With assistance from John McCormick in Chicago, Bob Drummond in Washington and Rocky Swift in Tokyo. Editors: Robin Meszoly, Don Frederick
To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in St. Petersburg at Jdavis159@bloomberg.net.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at firstname.lastname@example.org
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