JANESVILLE, Wis. – Visiting Wisconsin for the first time since Gov. Scott Walker survived a hotly-contested recall election, Mitt Romney discovered a fiery crowd of energized Republicans here Monday and declared that he would carry the Midwestern battleground that once was thought to be beyond his reach.
“I’ll tell ya, I think President Obama had just put this in his column; he just assumed at the very beginning Wisconsin was going to be his,” said Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. “But you know what? We’re going to win Wisconsin! We’re going to get the White House!”
Starting the fourth day of his heartland bus tour, Romney carried his economic message here to Janesville, the hometown of Rep. Paul Ryan, where he was introduced by the trifecta of Badger State Republican stars – Walker, Ryan and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
With the Republicans stepping up their campaign operation in Wisconsin to take advantage of what they see as an opportunity for Romney, Walker, in his debut appearance as a Romney surrogate, tried to transfer the momentum from his June 5recall election to Romney.
“It is my honor to still be the 45th governor of Wisconsin,” Walker said to loud cheers, “and it is my honor to be on stage with the man I hope is the 45th president of these United States.”
Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, called Romney a leader with “bedrock of principles” and a “moral compass” as he tried to bestow upon Romney the fiscal credibility he enjoys among conservatives.
“In this coming election, we’re going to make a choice,” Ryan said. “What kind of country do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be? We want to be free. That’s right.”
But the mutual love fest here between Romney and his Wisconsin supporters became fodder for the Democrats. Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith issued a statement saying, “Americans can’t afford Romney economics” because he would “rubber stamp the Ryan budget.”
“Romney’s speech today was an exercise in angry and evasive rhetoric,” Smith said. “He offered no ideas of how to create jobs now or strengthen the economy, just dishonest attacks against President Obama.”
In a sign of how polarizing Ryan may be in the general election campaign, Democratic protesters outside Romney’s event were not just chanting, “Romney, go home!,” but also, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Paul Ryan’s got to go!”
Inside the event, held in a sweltering factory that manufacturers fabric paint rollers and blankets, Romney said turning around the struggling economy was not as simple as pressing one button. If it were, he said, the administration would have figured that out. And Romney argued that it was he, not Obama, who had the right formula to create more jobs.
Romney also accused Obama of delegating responsibility for jobs to the Democrats in Congress.
“I am going to go into office and push it aside to the Congress and say to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid – well, they won’t be leaders at that point anyway – I am not going to push that over to them and say well, you take care of the economy,” Romney said.
Before Romney began his remarks here, Dan Sinykin, owner of the factory Monterey Mills, presented the candidate with a big blanket containing the text of the Pledge of Allegiance.
“It’s our hope that over the next four months, or four years, as you face one challenge after another, that you just take a moment and wrap yourself in the Pledge of Allegiance. We’re confident it will guide you in the right decision,” Sinykin said.
But inside the packed factory floor with no air conditioning, on a day when the high was forecast to hit 98 degrees, Romney accepted the blanket and quipped, “Just what we need here this morning!”