At a mid-day rally Thursday in Northern Virginia, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney kept his focus on the economy—and Barack Obama’s record on it.
“I would expect when the president gave his address at the convention a couple weeks ago that he would have spoken about the unemployment, but he didn’t,” said Romney, flanked by two identical signs reading, “The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class.”
“We’ve watched [Obama] for the last four years, and what he’s done has not helped,” Romney said. “It has led to a decline in median income. It’s led to unemployment being above 8 percent for 43 straight months. It’s led to a larger and larger gap between the wealthier and the rest of America.”
The Romney campaign may believe the sustained attacks from Obama on his opponent’s wealth are working; the reference to a “larger gap” between the wealthy and the “rest of us” is a newer Romney innovation, and one he repeated later in his speech. Romney also said multiple times he wants “higher wages and take-home pay.”
As far as explaining his own plan to fix the economy, Romney is now offering slightly more details. Among his “five points”—energy, trade, education, government spending, and small businesses—he offered substantial policy explanations on the first two. On energy, Romney said he would increase licensing for oil and natural gas exploration, open up the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve and the outer continental shelf for oil drilling, and bring in “that pipeline from Canada.” The last policy detail received a rousing applause.
Romney also reiterated his intention to “call out” China for “cheating” in the world market, with a little explanation for the laymen.
“Cheating occurs if you hold down your currency,” Romney said. “You might wonder, ‘How in the world does that got to do with jobs?’ Let me tell you. When China manipulates their currency by holding down the value of their currency compared to ours, what it does is it makes their products in this country artificially cheap, and that then drives American manufacturers and American producers out of business.”
Romney said he would list China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office and do more to crack down on the Chinese practice of stealing American intellectual property and technology.
But on his other points, Romney was much more platitudinous. Regarding education, he said he wants to put “the kids and the teachers and the parents first and put the unions behind.” On spending, President Romney would pursue a balanced budget, he said, but there was little mention of reforming Medicare and Medicaid. His main objective to help small businesses, Romney said, would be to repeal Obamacare.
“That’s my plan,” Romney said. “I’m confident it’s going to work because I didn’t just study the economy in school, I actually lived in the economy for 25 years.”
Romney’s most effective argument for his vision of a nation of entrepreneurs came in a story he told very effectively. “I met a guy named Jim Liataud,” Romney said. “He graduated second in his high school class. Second from the bottom, that is.” The crowd laughed.
“He concluded that college was not likely to be part of his future,” Romney continued, explaining that Liataud asked his father for a small loan to help start a hot dog store. After discovering his loan could only cover the costs of his equipment, Liataud decided to make sandwiches instead.
“So he set up some tables in his garage and started making sandwiches, and then he delivered them to people at work,” Romney said, building up the reveal. “And now Jimmy John’s has one thousand, five hundred restaurants and over 16,00 Americans.” The crowd roared in recognition of a familiar chain.
Romney did reflect briefly on the recent terrorist attacks on American diplomats.
“We have heavy hearts across America today,” Romney said. “I…recognize that right now we’re mourning. We've lost four diplomats across the world. We're thinking about their families and those that they've left behind. What a tragedy to lose such wonderful, wonderful people that have been so wonderful and appreciate their service for the country.”
There was a disturbance in the crowd, potentially a protester, while others shouted “it was preventable” and “USA! USA!” Romney continued.
“And so I would offer a moment of silent, but one gentlemen doesn’t want to be silent, so we’re just going to keep on going,” he said. Romney then recalled his conversation with former Polish president Lech Walesa, who asked Romney about restoring American leadership in the world.
“As we watch the world today, sometimes it seems that we’re at the mercy of events instead of shaping events,” Romney said. “A strong America is essential to shape events. And a strong America, by the way, depends on a strong military. We have to have a military second to none.”
Romney criticized the coming defense cuts under the budget sequestration and promised to “restore” the military’s budget. That got a big positive response from the Northern Virginia crowd.
Eventually, though, Romney came back around to his favorite subject. “Now for a country to have a strong military, then of course you have to have a strong economy,” Romney said.