“This is a president who talks about deregulation, even as he regulates. Who talks about lowering taxes, even as he raises them. Who talks about expanding energy resources, even as he tries to shut them down,” Romney said.
The candidate for the Republican presidential nomination used the word “detached” repeatedly to describe the president’s attitude, picking up on a critique of Obama that he sometimes can appear aloof.
Romney, whose personal wealth has been on display this week after he released his tax records, did not address a central argument of Obama’s address — that economic fairness demands that wealthier Americans pay more to help stabilize the economy and reduce the debt. Instead, he argued that Obama’s policies are not doing enough to reverse the squeeze on the middle class.
“If you really think things are going well in this country and we’re on the right track, that his policies are working, you ought to vote for him,” he said. “But I think, on that basis, if we ask the American people if they think things are going well or not so well ... he’s not going to be president very long.”
One of Romney’s rivals for the nomination, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, tried to turn Obama’s theme to his own advantage as he campaigned in Florida.
Santorum, speaking to a crowd of about 250 people at First Baptist Church in Naples said that he was “very excited about the President’s speech last night.” His comment drew laughs from the conservative Christian crowd, leading Santorum to say that he “actually was” glad to hear Obama’s message, because it dovetails with his own.
“The president of the United States made the case for Rick Santorum for being the nominee of the Republican party,” he said as the audience applauded. “What did the president lead with? ... What was the first voter group he went after, the one he spent the most time on, the one he was going to do the most to try to help? Manufacturing, blue collar workers.
“Who’s been running their campaign for president here on the Republican side of the aisle, saying we need to focus on upward mobility? We need to focus on small town and blue collar America to create the ladder of success through manufacturing jobs to be able to rise is society again,” Santorum said. A few audience members shouted “Santorum!” and “Rick!”
Romney’s and Santorum’s responses to Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night were among an array of reactions from conservative critics, whose divergent responses mirrored the fractures on display this year in a bruising Republican presidential primary campaign.