Mitt Romney was relaxed and sunny as he laid into President Obama Tuesday night, fresh off his second big win in less than a week.
His wife Ann subtly referenced her husband’s Sunday Puerto Rico victory in her introduction, thanking the campaign’s supporters there.
Romney stumbled a few times, but overall it was a solid speech with some sharp attack lines directed at the president.
He echoed many of the themes of his speech at the University of Chicago a day ago.
“Our economic freedom will be on the ballot,” Romney said.
He argued that Obama’s regulations were killing innovation, even as the president praised past innovators. “When we replace a law professor with a conservative businessman as president, that’s going to end,” Romney said. “This president is crushing the dream and the dreamers and I will make sure that finally ends.”
Obama, he said, doesn’t understand how the economy works: “You can’t learn that teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago. You can’t even learn that as a community organizer.”
While no one expects the race to be over after tonight’s primary, Romney positioned himself as the inevitable Republican nominee, saying “each day we move closer not just to victory but to a better America.”
The full transcript (as prepared for delivery):
Thank you, Illinois! What a great night!
I’d like to congratulate my fellow candidates on a hard-fought contest. I’d like to thank our volunteers and our friends for their hard work and unwavering support. And, tonight, we thank the people of Illinois for their vote – and for this incredible victory.
Elections are about choices. And today hundreds of thousands of Illinois voters have joined millions across the country in our cause.
We began this movement on a small farm in New Hampshire on a sunny June day, surrounded by a small group of friends, family, and supporters. We shared a conviction that the America we loved was in trouble and adrift without strong leadership. Three years of Barack Obama had brought us fewer jobs and shrinking paychecks, but many of us believed we were in danger of losing something more than the value of homes and 401(k)s.
After the years of too many apologies and not enough jobs, historic drops in income and historic highs in gas prices, of a President who doesn’t hesitate to use all means necessary to force Obamacare on the American public but leads from behind in world affairs, it’s time to say, “Enough!”
We know our future is better and brighter than these troubled times. We still believe in America – and we deserve a President who believes in us.
Yesterday I gave a speech at the University of Chicago, not far from here and where Professor Barack Obama taught Constitutional Law. It was a speech on economic freedom and as I was writing it, I thought back to the lifetime of experiences I’ve had learning the unique genius of the American free enterprise system. It started when I was just a kid, and my dad, who never graduated from college, would tell me about his dad, who was a contractor and never quite made it but never gave up.
Later I helped start companies that began just as an idea and somehow made it through all the inevitable difficulties to create thousands of jobs. Those jobs helped families buy their first homes, put kids through school, live better lives, dream a little bigger.
For 25 years, I lived and breathed jobs, business, and the economy. I had successes and failures but each step of the way, I learned a little more about what it is that makes our American system so powerful.
You can’t learn that teaching Constitutional law. You can’t learn that as a community organizer. The simple truth is that this President just doesn’t understand the genius of America’s economy – or the secret of our success.
The American economy is fueled by freedom. Economic freedom is the only force that has consistently succeeded in lifting people out of poverty. It is the only principle that has ever created sustained prosperity.
But, over the last three years, this administration has been engaged in an assault on our freedom.
Under President Obama, bureaucrats prevent drilling rigs from going to work in the Gulf. They keep coal from being mined. They impede the reliable supply of natural gas. They even tell farmers what their 15-year-old sons and daughters can and can’t do on the family farm.
The administration’s assault on freedom has kept this so-called recovery from meeting their projections, let alone our expectations.
And now, the President is trying to erase his record with rhetoric. Just the other day, he said, “We are inventors. We are builders. We are makers of things. We are Thomas Edison. We are the Wright Brothers. We are Bill Gates. We are Steve Jobs.”
That’s true. But the problem is: he’s still Barack Obama. And under this President, those pioneers would have faced an uphill battle to innovate, invent, and create.
Under Dodd-Frank, they would have struggled to get a loan from their community bank.
A regulator would have shut down the Wright Brothers for their “dust pollution.”
And the government would have banned Thomas Edison’s light bulb. Oh, that’s right. They just did.
The real cost of these misguided policies are the ideas that are never pursued and the dreams that are never realized.
For centuries, the American Dream has meant the opportunity to build something new. Some of America’s greatest success stories are people who started out with nothing but a good idea and a corner in their garage. But today, Americans who want to start a new business or launch a new venture don’t see promise and opportunity. They see government standing in their way.
We once built the interstate highway system and the Hoover Dam. Today, we can’t even build a pipeline.
We once led the world in manufacturing, exports, and infrastructure investment. Today, we lead the world in lawsuits.
When we replace a law professor with a businessman, that will end.
Every great innovation, every world-changing business breakthrough begins with a dream. And nothing is more fragile than a dream. The genius of America is that we nurture these dreams and the dreamers. We honor them, and, yes, we reward them.
That’s part of what is uniquely brilliant about America. But day by day, job-killing regulation by job-killing regulation, bureaucrat by bureaucrat, this President is crushing the dream and the dreamers.
The proof is in this weak recovery. This administration thinks our economy is struggling because the stimulus was too small. The truth is our economy is struggling because the government is too big.
You and I know what President Obama still has not learned, even after three years and hundreds of billions of dollars in spending: The government does not create prosperity; prosperity is the product of free markets and free people.
This November, we face a defining decision. Our choice will not be one of party or personality. This election will be about principle. Our economic freedom will be on the ballot.
I am offering a real choice and a new beginning. I am running for President because I have the experience and the vision to get us out of this mess. We know what Barack Obama’s vision of America is – we’ve all lived it the last three years. Mine is very different.
I see an America where we know the prospects for our children will be better than our own; where the pursuit of success unites us, not divides us; when a government finally understands that it’s better for more to pay less in taxes than for a few to pay more; where the values we pass on to our children are greater than the debts we leave them; where poverty is defeated by opportunity, not enabled a government check.
I see an America that is humble but never humbled, that leads but is never led.
Today we took an important step toward that America. Tomorrow, we take another. Each day we move closer not just to victory but to a better America. Join us. Together, we will ensure that America’s greatest days are still ahead.
Thank you and God bless America.