Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 02/27/2012

Mitt Romney pounds Rick Santorum for not focusing on economy

ROCKFORD, Mich. – With Rick Santorum using provocative rhetoric to inject cultural issues into the Republican presidential race, Mitt Romney assailed his rival Monday on the eve of the high-stakes Michigan primary for not campaigning enough on the issue voters say they care most about: the economy.

Noting that Santorum penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal laying out his economic and tax policies, Romney told a Monday morning rally here: “I’m glad to see that.”

“I’m glad he recognizes this has got to be a campaign about the economy,” Romney said. “It’s time for him to really focus on the economy – and for you to all say, ‘Okay, if the economy’s going to be the issue we focus on, who has the experience to actually get this economy going again?”

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, cited his 25-year career as a businessman as evidence that he understands why jobs come and knows what it will take to heal the nation’s ailing economy.

“Sen. Santorum’s a nice guy, but he’s never had a job in the private sector,” Romney said, repeating a line he often uses to attack President Obama. Of Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, Romney added: “He’s worked as a lobbyist, he’s worked as an elected official, and that’s fine, but if the issue of the day is the economy, I think to create jobs it helps to have a guy as president who’s had a job, and I have.”

Romney spent a full two minutes of his 15-minute speech here attacking Santorum. But after days of trying to highlight his conservative principles and undermine Santorum’s consistency to conservatism, Romney focused his remarks Monday on the economy. While stumping here in conservative western Michigan, Romney made no reference to abortion or religious liberty – themes both men campaigned on last week.

“We need dramatic change, fundamental change in Washington,” Romney said. “We can’t just keep on going down the road we’re on – more and more programs, spending more and more money that we don’t have. We have to say we’re gonna dramatically change the structure of Washington.”

Then, referencing Santorum, Romney added: “That’s not gonna happen by someone who is a creature of Washington, someone who’s spent their life in Washington.”

Polling shows the race in Michigan is close, but Romney’s advisers say their candidate has the momentum following his strong debate performance in Arizona and more than a week of heavy campaigning here.

But the first of Romney’s three grassroots rallies scheduled for Monday was relatively lukewarm. As Romney and his wife, Ann, addressed a few hundred supporters at Byrne Electric, large swaths of the warehouse that had been cordoned off for supporters were empty. And while the candidate drew applause, it was not as enthusiastic as most of his earlier Michigan campaign events.

The emcee began the rally by observing, “there’s a lot of excitement out there,” but Romney’s supporters were just milling around. Several of those in the crowd were not even backing Romney; they were Byrne employees taking in the show.

“Am I excited?” said one of Romney’s supporters, Jerry Vandertill, a 52-year-old electrical engineer. “I’m not excited about any politician, frankly.”

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By  |  10:20 AM ET, 02/27/2012

 
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