COLUMBIA, S.C. — Mitt Romney returned to South Carolina on Tuesday and continued his strategy of ignoring his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination while drawing a sharp contrast only with President Obama.
Addressing about 150 supporters on the floor of a commercial sign factory here, Romney cast himself as a champion of the “entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the American people.”
“Our problem is not that the private sector isn’t productive enough,” Romney said. “The problem is that the government sector is too heavy and too burdensome and is keeping the private sector from growing and thriving like it should.”
Romney highlighted pledges he has made earlier on the campaign trail to scale back the size of the federal government, repeal Obama’s health-care overhaul and unwind a host of Obama-era environmental and financial services regulations. He said he would do this in “my hopeful first term.”
“The reason I’m gonna do those things is because I’ve got a very different view about what makes America work than our president,” Romney said. “ I think he and a lot of people around him think that a group of bureaucrats — very smart, spend a lot of time in Washington — can do a better job guiding our lives than can we. I don’t think that’s right.”
Romney gave a 14-minute speech here, which was a variation of his standard stump speech. He did not roll-out any new policy prescriptions, nor did he take questions from the audience or the press.
Midway through Romney’s remarks, one attendee, who wore an Occupy Columbia T-shirt, was escorted out of the venue by a police officer and Romney campaign aides. The activist did not appear to cause a disruption, although the protester may have been removed as a precaution. Last week in South Carolina, activists interrupted a foreign policy speech by Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), causing her to briefly leave the stage. A Romney spokeswoman had no comment on the matter.
Romney spoke at the headquarters of Colite International, a company that makes neon lighted signs for such commercial establishments as Holiday Inn, HSBC, the Apple Store and Gap. Romney toured the plant with his wife, Ann, who wore a Palmetto tree pin above her heart.
“I don’t always get a chance to travel with my best friend,” Mitt Romney said, handing the microphone over to his wife. She spoke about her father, an immigrant from Wales, who moved to the United States and ran a manufacturing business.
“We all now recognize that that hope and dream may be dimming, and it’s so important, not just for Americans but for the world, that America stays strong,” Ann Romney said. “And that’s why, even though last time I told Mitt I’d never do this again, here we are.”
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