Romney tries to shift focus back to economy
Posted May 11, 2012
Charlotte, N.C. — Republican Mitt Romney used an appearance at a Charlotte foundry on Friday afternoon to try to return the focus of his campaign to the sluggish economic recovery.
The presumptive GOP nominee for president has spent recent days restating his opposition to gay marriage and shrugging off a newspaper report that he bullied a gay classmate in prep school.
"We've had economic policies that haven't worked for this nation," Romney told a cheering crowd at Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co.
He repeatedly attacked the "old-school liberal" policies of President Barack Obama, which he said have left the U.S. with a tepid recovery from the global recession.
"We've got a government that's gotten in the way of the American people," he said. "We're going to change that."
Romney said he would balance the budget and cut spending by eliminating some federal programs and shifting things like Medicaid and food stamps to the states, which he said could operate them more efficiently. He also called for an energy policy that promotes domestic drilling for oil and natural gas and trade policies that "crack down on cheaters like China."
"The right policies are going to put America back to work and make us the economic powerhouse we've always been," he said.
The crowd gave Romney his biggest cheers when he vowed to repeal the national health care reform law, dubbed "Obamacare" by many, and when he attacked programs that benefit labor unions.
"Some people feel that the future's bleak. I don't," he said. "This is a great time in America. It's a great opportunity time."
Romney's visit came three days after he handily won the North Carolina primary, and many political observers expect a tight race in the state in November.
"I think he spoke to what people wanted to hear – what I wanted to hear – and I think that's the way we're going," said Eric Nelson of Raleigh, who went to Charlotte to hear Romney.
Cheryn Rowell said she brought her 9-year-old son, Jordan, to see a presidential candidate up close.
"I think he spoke to us. He spoke to everyone in this building," Rowell said.
Obama's unexpected embrace of gay marriage on Wednesday – the day after North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment defining heterosexual marriage as the only union recognized in the state – continued to overwhelm the presidential campaign as liberals and conservatives debated the political merits of his endorsement of an issue over which a president has little practical impact.
For Romney, the discussion of gay rights turned personal when The Washington Post published a story recounting how he and several schoolmates held down classmate John Lauber and cut off his bleached blond hair after seeking him out in his dorm room at their boarding school in the wealthy Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The Post said Lauber was "perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality" and that he screamed for help as Romney held him down and forcibly hacked off his hair. The paper recounted another incident in which Romney shouted "atta girl" to a different student at the all-boys' school who, years later, came out as gay.
At no point on Thursday did Romney volunteer comments about the report or about Obama's views on gay rights. But he did apologize for what he characterized as tomfoolery when asked by reporters.
"I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some may have gone too far. And for that I apologize," Romney told Fox News during a hastily arranged radio interview.
Romney said he didn't remember the Lauber incident, but also didn't dispute that it happened. He stressed that he didn't know either student was gay and moved quickly to counter any suggestion he had targeted students because they were.
"That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case," he said, adding that the students involved "didn't come out of the closet until years later."
On Saturday, Romney will use a commencement speech at Liberty University, a conservative Christian school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, to cast strong families as central to a strong economy.
"Although opportunities seem scarce in this economy, it is not for nothing that you have spent this time preparing. America needs your talent and your energy, all the more now that our country's in a tough spot," he will say in his prepared remarks. "In the most practical, everyday terms, the best cultural assets are values as basic as personal responsibility, the dignity of hard work, and, above all, the commitments of family."