Mitt Romney, the newly minted presumptive GOP presidential nominee, sought to rally Republican Party officials around his campaign Friday with a speech tearing into President Barack Obama and his economic record.
Delivered in Scottsdale, Ariz., at a meeting of the Republican National Committee's state chairs, the speech mainly focused on Obama and what Romney said are his failures in terms of job creation, regulation, and America's standing internationally.
After a bruising primary-election season when Romney's conservative credentials were frequently questioned, the former Massachusetts governor used the president as a rallying point for the party faithful, sending a signal that now is the time to focus on defeating Obama.
We've seen the vision of Barack Obama, Romney said. Just open your eyes if you want to see where his vision leads.
Romney's remarks were a definitive break with the GOP primary campaign, even though Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are still in the race. Romney thanked the Republican candidates who have dropped out and said they would be an integral part of the fall campaign.
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U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee who lost to Obama, introduced Romney to the RNC crowd gathered in his home state, effectively passing the torch to the party's new standard-bearer.
I am so gratified to see our party coming together in a solid team that is going to elect him president of the United States, McCain said, while also defending Romney's business background at the private-equity firm Bain Capital.
With the primary-election campaign behind him, Romney is developing a general-election message focused heavily on freedom from government regulation. Obama's policies would lead to the federal government controlling more than one-half of the economy, Romney said.
I will return to America the principles of free enterprise and economic freedom that drove us to be the most powerful economy in the world, Romney said.
Romney painted Obama as a president in over his head and unable to spur the economy. He blamed Obama for the record number of Americans who had to take food assistance following the recession. He also reiterated a dubious statistic that women formerly held 93 percent of the jobs lost under the Obama administration.
To avoid coming off as a cheerleader for a bad economy, Romney said any increase in employment is due to American ingenuity, not to the stimulus package.
It's not because of the stimulus, Romney said. It's in spite of that stimulus, and it's thanks to the enterprise of the American people.