Romney energizes supporters at Basalt campaign stop
BASALT – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney assailed President Obama’s record Thursday during a campaign stop at Basalt, and he touted his own plan with a little help from his friends.
Romney and 10 GOP governors energized a crowd in excess of 500 people while talking about what Romney would do differently in the White House and how they feel Obama has failed.
“By his own measures, this is a president whose policies have not been successful,” Romney said, citing the current administration’s inability to reduce unemployment, ease foreclosures on homeowners, reduce the federal deficit or spur small business start-ups.
Romney’s appearance at Basalt High School attracted more supporters and curious onlookers than could fit in the gym. A long line snaked out the school’s door and into the lawn. Event volunteer Shellie Roy, of Aspen, said she thought scores of people waiting to get inside would be turned away.
Romney entered the gym to the song “Born Free,” by Kid Rock, and then delivered a 12-minute speech. He was dressed Colorado casual with a blue, button-down shirt with the long sleeves rolled up a short way.
Romney greeted the cheering crowd by thanking them for attending and by praising the governors.
“I sure plan on becoming the next president of the United States with their help,” he said.
The candidate outlined what was dubbed a five-point plan to build a stronger middle class with more jobs and take-home pay.
“No. 1, we need to take advantage of our energy resources in this country,” Romney said. He said he wants to tap all possible resources: coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear and renewables. Romney said he would eliminate regulations “destroying” the coal industry.
“We have 250 years’ worth of coal. Don’t throw it away,” he said.
In a state where widespread leasing of public lands for natural-gas exploration has been controversial and the fracking method of extraction is under extreme scrutiny, Romney didn’t mince words about his plan.
“By the way, we’re going to open up federal lands and take advantage of those resources,” Romney said to a widespread cheer from the audience. “This is just not talk. By the end of my first term, second term rather, in eight years, we’re going to get North America energy independent, where we don’t have to buy any oil whatsoever.”
The four other points of his plan are:
• Giving the work force the skills it needs to succeed. All families will have a choice of where to send their kids, he said, and older workers will have access to training for today’s jobs.
• Creating a trade policy that works for America. He vowed to curtail “unfair” trade practices of countries such as China.
• Cut the federal deficit. Economic growth is nearly impossible when the budget deficits are running so large, Romney said. He vowed to immediately reduce non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent. “By the last year of my second term, we’ll finally have a balanced budget in our country,” Romney said.
• Champion small businesses by lowering taxes levied on them and halting new regulations. One thing he vowed not to do was “lay Obamacare on the American people.” (Policymakers from both parties have acknowledged it will be nearly impossible for Romney, if elected, to overturn Obama’s health care plan as long as one chamber of Congress is controlled by Democrats.)
“I’ve got to tell you, I am excited to get to Washington, D.C.,” Romney said. “I want to get this country on track again. If we do those five things, we’re going to see this country … take off again.”
Romney received a standing ovation from most in the crowd as he concluded by proclaiming, “We’re going to take this country back.”
Audience member John Fitzpatrick, a longtime small-business owner in Basalt, enthusiastically clapped when Romney talked about assisting small businesses and ending reliance on foreign oil. Following the campaign stump, Fitzpatrick said he liked what he heard from Romney.
“I think it’s right on,” he said. “The five-step plan is what we need to get back on track.”
He said Romney’s delivery was extremely smooth and the candidate was well spoken. Watching the speech confirmed the direction he plans to go with his vote.
“I was in his corner before this,” Fitzpatrick said.
The audience appeared to be a mixture of residents from the Roaring Fork Valley and Romney supporters from elsewhere in western Colorado. A crew of about a dozen workers from Gould Construction took time out from working on an expansion of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s bus facilities nearby and attended the speech. They were wearing their neon-green safety vests, and some of them donned their hardhats. They were placed by Romney campaign workers on a bleacher directly behind the candidate and the 10 governors, in a spot where they would be prominent in photographs and video.
A huge American flag hung at the rear of the gym, in view behind Romney and the governors. A smaller American flag and Colorado flag were off to the sides of the stage. The flags and Romney banners were mixed with the multitude of purple banners celebrating successes of Basalt High School sports teams, giving the scene a homey feel.
Romney arrived at the campaign stop 45 minutes after the scheduled start and started speaking at 4 p.m. After his speech, each of the 10 governors sharing the stage with him spoke about why Romney would be better than Obama. No questions were taken from the audience. The governors attending were Chris Christie, of New Jersey, Nikki Haley, of South Carolina, Bob McDonnell, of Virginia, Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana, Rick Perry, of Texas, Matt Mead, of Wyoming, Gary Herbert, of Utah, Mary Fallin, of Oklahoma, Susana Martinez, of New Mexico, and Jan Brewer, of Arizona.
The governors were attending the Republican Governors Association meeting, which has been held annually in Aspen for the past few years. They are discussing policy and politics. Romney and the governors were scheduled to attend a major fundraiser Thursday night at The Little Nell hotel in Aspen. Numerous top donors to the party were expected.
Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland and Pitkin County Democratic Party Chairwoman Blanca O’Leary released a statement, via the Obama-Biden campaign, responding to Romney’s visit.
The three high-profile Democrats touted Obama policies they said will benefit the middle class and strengthen the economy in the long run.
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