Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney lambasted President Barack Obama’s economic policies in front of hundreds of supporters at a town hall campaign stop in Warwick last night. Romney came to Rhode Island in preparation for the state’s Republican primary April 24, a competition he is widely expected to win.
Noticeably absent from Romney’s address was any mention of former Senator Rick Santorum, who suspended his campaign Tuesday, virtually assuring Romney the Republican Party’s nomination. Romney instead focused his criticism on Obama – his potential November opponent – in what was perhaps an indication the general election campaign has begun.
Romney opened by countering the notion that the Republican Party is waging “a war on women,” which has recently received media attention because of controversy surrounding the party’s stance on birth control. “The real war on women has been waged by this president’s economic policy, because they have failed American women,” Romney said. He said that of the more than 800,000 jobs lost over the course of Obama’s presidency, 92 percent were held by women. PolitiFact, a nonpartisan organization that rates the accuracy of political statements, classified the statistic as “mostly false.”
John Robitaille, the 2010 Republican candidate for Rhode Island Governor, spoke to the crowd before Romney took the stage. Robitaille highlighted the difficult economic times and the high unemployment rate, which he attributed to Democratic policy. “I think we ought to send him a pink slip. I think we ought to send President Obama back to Chicago,” he said.
Romney spent most of his speech addressing Obama’s “failed economic policies.” He listed the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – known colloquially as the stimulus bill – as well as health care and Wall Street reform legislation as examples of the administration’s failed attempts to shore up the economy.
He proposed instead reducing the federal bureaucracy by 10 percent, lowering tax rates and cutting ineffective government programs.
National, state and local governments currently control 38 percent of the economy, Romney said, and if Obama’s health care bill remains in place, the government would control 50 percent of the economy. “At what point do you stop being a free economy, by the way? And a free nation?” he asked.
Government “running the economy, telling us how to live our lives, telling us what kind of health care we can have, what kind of treatment we can receive – that’s where we’re headed,” Romney said. “That’s the course to become more like Europe. Europe doesn’t work in Europe. I don’t want it here, all right?” he added.
Romney also said Obama’s decision to cut defense spending has harmed America’s security. “We need to have a military so strong that no one in the world would ever think of testing it,” he said. “If I were president, I would take our shipbuilding not down but from nine to 35 (ships) per year. I’d purchase more F-35s. I would add about 100,000 troops to our active duty personnel, and I’d make sure our veterans get the care they deserve,” he added.
After speaking, Romney took questions from the audience. State Rep. Doreen Costa, R-Exeter and North Kingstown, asked Romney for advice on addressing illegal immigration policy, like a recent law passed in Rhode Island that gives illegal immigrants in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. Calling the Republican Party “the party of immigration,” Romney vowed to stop illegal immigration in order to allow the country to bring in more legal immigrants, who have the education and language skills to help America’s economy, he said.
Romney’s remarks were generally well-received, but some Republicans refused to concede that the primary race is over. Michael Gardiner, a candidate for Congress in Rhode Island’s second district and the lead delegate for the Newt Gingrich campaign on the ballot in Rhode Island, said he is willing to support Romney in the general election, but he will vote for Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, in the primaries. Gingrich is “a conservative, who balanced four budgets consecutively,” Gardiner said. “He passed the first balanced budget in 25 years (as Speaker of the House). He co-authored the Contract with America. … His credentials are unbelievable,” he added.
But Heather Swagart, a Connecticut native, said Romney was “very inspiring.”
“He answered a lot of my questions, and I think more of the United States needs to listen to what he has to say,” she added.
“I definitely think it was an inspiring speech,” said Allan Fung, mayor of Cranston. “He hits a lot of points, particularly with respect to the economic needs of our city and our state and our country,” he added.
“We need to go back to the capitalist experience,” Fung said. “There have been a lot of failed promises by the president.”
Many Brown students attended the event in support of Romney. Alex Drechsler ’15, Stephanie Hennings ’15 and Colin Smith ’13 said they thought the governor did a “great job.”
“I thought he said a lot of things that were really well thought out and not just political jargon,” Drechsler said. “I really think he would be able to help our economy and help our country.”