Romney stumps to supporters about economy, not Sandy

10/31/12 Janelle Irwin
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As President Barack Obama spends another day working on hurricane Sandy relief efforts, his opponent Mitt Romney resumed a full campaign schedule in Florida today. At a stop this morning at a hangar at Tampa International Airport, Romney focused on his economic plan for America.

“Now I don’t just talk about change, I actually have a plan to execute change and make it happen.”

Romney criticized Obama administration policies, but in stark contrast to previous stump speeches, didn’t point his finger directly at Obama. Instead he spent his 20 minute speech to more than 1,000 supporters talking about his five point economic plan which includes increased drilling for fossil fuels.

“I really do believe that we were given an ace in the hole and that is that someone learned how to drill in the earth not just vertically, but horizontally and then tap into pockets of oil and gas and as a result we have huge new resources in natural gas and oil. And so, number one for me is take full advantage of our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear and our renewables.”

Romney drew on fears that the economy has stalled at a point where unemployment rates are still high and graduating college students still struggle to find work. He said his economic plan will create jobs by cutting back on regulations and slashing taxes for small business.

“I was with an entrepreneur in St. Louis who has an electronics business – 400 employees – and he said that he and his son calculated how much they spend in taxes every year of what they earn in their business and he took the income tax and the payroll tax and the state income tax and the real estate tax and the gasoline tax and they added it up and it was over half of what they made.”

Outside the event, more than a half dozen anti-Romney protesters waved signs to people coming to watch the presidential hopeful speak. One wore a giant Mitt Romney costume and shouted things like “Mitt Romney will eat your brains.” It was part of a Halloween-themed demonstration asking voters to say “No to a Zomney economy.” Savannah Goodland with the Florida Consumer Action Network said Romney’s economic plan would only benefit the wealthiest Americans.

“Romney wants to continue to give tax cuts to wealthy people who aren’t struggling, who are doing very well right now despite the hard economic times we’ve been in the last several years and Obama wants to fight to continue to make sure we offer services to people who are struggling. He wants to make sure there are tax cuts and all the deductions and things that middle class and lower income families need.”

Before Romney took the stage inside the airport hangar, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio mused that some people have just become complacent with the struggling job market and stagnant unemployment rate.

“Unfortunately what I’ve picked up on in Florida and around the country is the belief that maybe things will never be the same again, that this is the new normal – 8% unemployment, slow economic growth – that this is the way it just needs to be but it’s not. The truth is that there’s no reason why the 21st Century cannot be better than the 20th.”

And one way Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney hopes to do that is by boosting public education in all fifty states. His idea mirrors that of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who implemented a school grading system using scores from the FCAT. Bush is now the head of an educational foundation that advocates controversial school choice programs like charter schools and voucher programs. Romney said he would also support a education reform concept where public funding is tied to individual students.

“One, make sure that schools are graded so parents can tell which schools are succeeding and which are not. And two, the federal dollars that we give to states and localities – there are two big buckets, one is Title I, the other is called IDEA money – those dollars I’m going to have follow the student so that if a child wants to go to a different school or his or her parents do they have the capacity to do that.”

Romney did not talk much about super storm Sandy. Yesterday, he collected supplies for victims of the storm and in his speech today he asked people to make donations to the American Red Cross. But as President Obama has stalled his campaign to tend to disaster efforts, some people are asking if it’s too soon for Romney to be back on the trail. Janette Mellody, a Romney supporter, doesn’t think so.

“We are a few days before the election and I think he was working with the people yesterday or the day before and I feel like there’s nothing wrong with this today and I’m sure we will all be gathered in thoughts and prayers for the people.”

Yesterday reporters asked Romney several times about his plans to pass Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA responsibilities onto individual states. He didn’t answer. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush introduced Romney before his speech and touched on the issue.

“By the way, my experience in this emergency response business is that it’s the local level and the state level that really matters, that if they do their job right, the federal government part works out pretty good.”

But Mike Long, an organizer with the Florida Consumer Action Network who was protesting Romney’s Tampa appearance said a Romney presidency would hurt disaster relief efforts.

“Mitt Romney’s been very clear in the past that he’s been against FEMA and the Republican party has voted to cut FEMA’s budget a number of times. They’ve also – when there’s times of really bad disasters and they need additional resources for FEMA, they’ve refused to fund that unless they make cuts to social services, to working people, to poor people.”

The FEMA director during the George W. Bush administration, Michael Brown, criticized Obama for reacting to the storm too quickly. But that’s not how all Republicans feel. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has praised Obama for his handling of the disaster. And Bill Nichols, a Tampa Bay area Romney supporter said before the rally today that for once, he’s actually pleased with something Obama did.

“We have a lot of problems in this country; FEMA being under-funded would be one of them. But we can’t do anything until we get the country back to work. The whole thing depends on the wealth we create on our economy. If we’re not working we can’t afford FEMA, we can’t afford military, we can’t afford healthcare. The issue is, are we going to get back to work or not?”

From now until Election Day Romney supporters will lead campaign events in 11 states including Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Romney will be in New Hampshire tomorrow. That’s the only campaign event listed on his website this week. <br.



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