LANSING, Mich. — In his first stump speech since becoming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney accused President Obama of recycling tired policies of “old-school liberals” and asserted that it is he, not Obama, who offers the nation a path forward.
Obama formally began his reelection campaign last weekend by saying that he would lead the country forward and that Romney would take it backward. But Romney sought to turn that argument on its head in his speech here Tuesday. He said that Obama had abandoned the reforms that President Bill Clinton and the “New Democrats” introduced in the 1990s and instead had resurrected the “era of big government . . . with a vengeance.”
“Looking backward won’t solve the problems of today, nor will it take advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow,” Romney said. “His are the policies of the past. The challenges of the present and the promise of tomorrow must be met by a new and bold vision for the future, and I will bring it.”
Obama has asked voters to consider where he would take the country in his second term, and Romney said, “In our hearts, we know.”
He added: “As much as we’d like to believe him, we know that America is going in the wrong direction — not forward, but sideways, or worse. We know that the mounting debt is a problem, not a blessing. We know that failing schools mean failing futures. We know that if more and more good jobs leave America, there won’t be enough good jobs in America to succeed in this great country.”
Obama’s campaign responded by accusing Romney of reverting to the same economic policies of the George W. Bush administration: tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and lax regulation of Wall Street. “The American people won’t be fooled — they know that this is the same economic scheme that crashed our economy and punished the middle class in the first place,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.
Romney delivered a formal speech to about 400 supporters at Lansing Community College. The only mention the former Massachusetts governor made of the auto industry, an important issue for voters in Michigan, was a line at the beginning of his speech lamenting the demise of Oldsmobile.
Romney attacked Obama for a recent campaign invention that shows how a composite character, Julia, would benefit from Obama administration policies as she ages.
“Julia progresses from cradle to grave, showing how government makes every good thing in her life possible,” Romney said. “The weak economy, high unemployment, falling wages, rising gas prices, the national debt, the insolvency of entitlements — all these are fictionally assumed away in a cartoon produced by a president who wants us to forget about them. By the way, what does it say about a president’s policies when he has to use a cartoon character rather than real people to justify his record?”
Romney also sought to cast his business career — first as a management consultant and later as founder and chief executive of Bain Capital, a corporate buyout and venture capital firm — as entrepreneurial.
“I spent my business career at the leading edge of change and dynamism,” Romney said. He said he helped companies adapt to changing marketplaces before their competitors, a skill set he argued would help him in the presidency.
And Romney made a pitch to the nation’s young innovators.
“We work on iPads, we take pictures with cellphones, we sell on virtual marketplaces, we have best friends on Facebook we have never met — all of these things were invented in America,” he said. “And somewhere at a coffee shop, perhaps here in Lansing, a student is probably sketching out an idea, right now, that will change our lives in ways we can’t even imagine. I want that person to succeed beyond their wildest dreams.”