SOUTH PARK TOWNSHIP, Pa. — On the eve of the Keystone State’s GOP primary, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) delivered a withering critique of President Obama’s leadership on energy and the economy, telling a crowd of several hundred supporters who had braved unseasonably wintry weather that Obama is “a president who by his own measure has failed, and so he looks around for someone to blame.”
In a 20-minute speech at the headquarters of Consol Energy, a Fortune 500 coal and natural gas company, Romney sought to place responsibility for the country’s sluggish recovery squarely on Obama’s shoulders. And he contended that Obama’s move to “blame Congress” is moot because for Obama’s first two years in office, Democrats controlled Capitol Hill.
“So he’s out of ideas, and he’s out of excuses, and in 2012, we’ve got to make sure he’s out of office,” Romney said to loud applause from the early-morning crowd.
Romney, who was clad in dark jeans, a navy blue blazer, white shirt and no tie, was joined at the event by two Pennsylvania Republicans, Reps. Tim Murphy and Mike Kelly, who hail from nearby districts.
Kelly, a member of the House GOP freshman class, said in an interview after the event that while he had stayed neutral in the GOP race thus far, he is now endorsing Romney and “could not be happier” that he’s the nominee because of his business background and experience as Massachusetts governor.
Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, who served as George W. Bush’s first secretary of homeland security, had been expected to attend but canceled due to illness.
The event comes as Romney is rolling out his general election argument against Obama and solidifying support from members of his party on his way toward clinching the GOP nod. Earlier Monday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani endorsed his bid in an appearance on “Fox and Friends.”
Pennsylvania holds its nominating contest on Tuesday along with Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut and Vermont. Former senator Rick Santorum (R) had been hoping that a Pennsylvania primary win would boost his flagging campaign, but he dropped out earlier this month as polls showed Romney moving from strength to strength in Santorum’s home state.
Although Romney faces no serious threat from former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) or Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) in Tuesday’s contests, he nonetheless reminded supporters to get out the vote -- as well as to work over the summer in an effort to turn the state from blue to red come November.
“And so, I come to you the day before a primary asking for your help,” he said. “I need you guys to go out and vote tomorrow. I’d like you to go out and vote in your primary and give me your support and show that we’re ready and willing to take on President Obama, and then I want you to work over the summer to get your friends to think about voting — convince them that we need to have a president who understands the economy, who knows how to lead because he’s actually led before, who’ll go to work creating good jobs for the American people and will also go to work to make sure that the promise of America is kept.”
Romney also pointed to a new report showing that half of recent college graduates are unemployed.
He reprised several of his campaign-trail critiques of Obama, including a jab at the president’s Democratic National Convention speech four years ago in Denver, which Obama delivered before a backdrop of Greek columns.
“My guess is this time ... he will not want to be reminding people of Greece,” Romney said. “He will not want to be talking about debt and deficits.”
In response to Romney’s speech, Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign offered this statement:
“Once again, Mitt Romney gave a speech filled with distortions and dishonesty about both President Obama’s record and his own. Contrary to Romney’s rhetoric today, President Obama has aggressively pursued an all-of-the-above energy strategy — helping to expand domestic oil production, incentivize research and development for clean coal, nearly double the production of renewable energy, and encourage natural gas production — which has increased every year under President Obama to an all-time high. The real question is what Mitt Romney we’ll see when he shakes his etch-a-sketch on energy — will it be the Mitt Romney who raised a gas tax by 400% and was outspoken in his criticism of coal-fired plants saying that they ‘kill’ people? Or will it be the Mitt Romney who has embraced tax breaks for big oil and gas companies and said that he will eliminate protections against Wall Street speculators manipulating oil prices?”
Lou Nudi, a 72-year-old manufacturer’s agent from Ross Township, said he has backed Romney from the start and believes Republicans have their best chance yet of turning Pennsylvania red this year. The state has voted Democratic for president since 1988, although in 2010, Republicans prevailed in competitive Senate and gubernatorial races.
“I think there’s probably a greater possibility this year than there was in previous years, even in the Bush years,” Nudi said. “I think because of the economic times. ... It’s my belief that conservative Democrats are going to be coming with Romney.”
Romney also couldn’t help kicking off his speech with a favorite pastime. He opened by guessing at the relationship of two girls who were watching him speak from up on the balcony of the factory.
“Are you two twins?” he asked, then answered his own question. “No.”