The Washington Post

Mitt Romney in Iowa tries to return to economic message following Akin fallout

Mitt Romney returned forcefully to his core economic themes at a rally here Wednesday, trying to reassert control over his presidential campaign as a Republican Senate candidate’s remarks on abortion threaten to overwhelm his message.

Romney tore into President Obama over his stewardship of the nation’s job market and reliance on deficit spending, saying the president’s record is “inexcusable,” and calling on Iowans who helped propel Obama to the White House four years ago to take a different course this fall.

“President Obama, bless his heart, has tried to substitute government for free people and it has not worked and it will never work,” Romney said. “He said he’d cut the deficit in half; he doubled it. He said he’d get people good jobs; instead, we’ve gone 42 straight months with unemployment over 8 percent. Twenty-three million Americans out of work or stopped looking for work. It’s inexcusable.”

Romney made no mention of Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri who is defying pressure from Romney and other GOP leaders to abandon his race after sparking a national furor Sunday when he referred to “legitimate rape.”

But although Romney avoided the issue, one of his introductory speakers at the Bettendorf rally, Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), sought to draw attention on how she said Obama’s economic policies are affecting women across the country.

“President Obama is yet again on the attack, trying to divert attention from his failed economic policies, which have been especially devastating to women,” Reynolds said. She said an additional 780,000 women are unemployed and 800,000 are living in poverty since Obama took office.

“His policies have failed to create an environment where women and their families can succeed and do better,” Reynolds said. She added, “Mitt Romney shares the values and concerns of both women and men — restoring our economy, creating jobs, building a sustainable health-care system that keeps the promises to today’s seniors as well as future generations.”

Romney did not speak directly about women’s issues, but he did bring up one of his sisters, Lynn, and called her one of his heroes.

“She has eight children — wonderful kids,” Romney said. “Jeffrey, her eighth, [a] Down syndrome child, he lives at home with Lynn. He is now 43. And Lynn’s husband passed away a few years ago. She’s 75, takes care of Jeffrey, and makes sure he gets to his work and has a full and engaging life.”

Romney spoke extensively about America’s fiscal problems, saying that if elected he would apply the kind of efficiencies and economics used by many businesses to reform the government.

“It’s the nature of the private sector, where if you stand still people will end up rushing by you,” Romney said. “It’s also true in the public sector, they just don’t know it. If a nation doesn’t change the way it does things and improve and find ways to have government become more and more efficient and hold down the spending and balance the budgets, why other nations will run right by them.”

Campaigning in Iowa — a key swing state that helped fuel Obama’s campaign at the start of the 2008 Democratic primary season — Romney portrayed Obama’s term as a disappointment.

“I want you to each find one person who voted for Barack Obama last time and convince them that we should take a different course,” Romney said. “Remind them how disappointing it’s been over these past three and a half, four years. Find ’em, talk to them, get ’em to the polls.”

Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said Romney’s economic plan would harm America, in part because of his plans to overhaul Medicare into what Smith called “a voucher system.”

“This isn’t a recipe for strength,” Smith said in a statement. “It’s the same failed formula that crashed the economy and devastated the middle class in the first place.”

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.

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