Fresh from his definitive victory in the Florida primary, a more confident Mitt Romney said Wednesday that rival Newt Gingrich had taught him a valuable lesson — not to let another candidate define you.
“We got taught a lesson in South Carolina and I made sure that when I came to the debates [in Florida] I was ready to defend my record and I was ready to reverse some of the things [Gingrich] had been saying about me,” Romney said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Asked what accounted for his huge margin of victory Tuesday in Florida, where he took 46 percent of the vote to Gingrich’s 32 percent, the former Massachusetts governor said it was his performance in the debates.
“The debates were what really changed the numbers, changed the trajectory of the race,” he said, adding that a good debate performance “drives the campaign for more than do the ads.”
Looking and sounding more confident than at any time so far in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Romney declared himself to be a “solid conservative” with no plans to modify his positions in order to appeal to “certain sections of our party.”
“I have the positions that I have and, you know, I can try and change the positions and make them more attractive to certain sections of our party, but I’m not going to do that,” he said. “I think over time people recognize that I am a solid conservative and my record as a governor is a solid conservative record.”
Romney said he “chuckles” sometimes when he hears the former House speaker described as the conservative Republican candidate.
“The idea that he’s somehow the conservative guy just doesn’t square with his record,” he said.
Asked about two key issues facing the country — Medicare and Social Security expenditures — Romney said he agreed with some of his Republican colleagues that raising the retirement age “by a year or two” and reducing the benefit growth for wealthy retirees would help rein in spending on both programs.
But Romney said that as president he would tackle the bigger issue of the nation’s weak economy with what he described as five-point plan to put people back to work and increase U.S. markets.
The plan includes:
• More competitive tax rates for U.S. employers, which he described now as “the highest in the world;”
• Changing regulations if necessary to make them “work for enterprise as opposed to crushing enterprise;”
• Taking full advantage of the nation’s energy resources, which he said President Barack Obama “has held off on;”
• Opening up new markets for American goods and cracking down on trade “cheaters” like China;
• And reining in “union bosses” that he said are “telling American industry where it can grow and how it can expand.”
“The president’s crony capitalism is hurting free enterprise in this country,” Romney said. “Those key ideas are going to get this economy going again and it’s going to get Americans back to work.”
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