Underscoring the importance of Colorado in the presidential election -- and the significance of Jefferson County in the race to win this key swing state -- Mitt Romney held a rally today in Golden, marking his first campaign stop since returning from his trip in Europe.
Earlier today at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, the former Massachusetts governor and presumptive Republican presidential nominee addressed a packed room of more than a thousand supporters, who screamed lines like "Go, Mitt, go!" and "Colorado women love you!" during the event.
Romney first gave shout-outs to Republican congressional candidate Joe Coors and Missy Franklin, "a Colorado girl with a big heart," before briefly referencing the Aurora theater shooting. Echoing comments President Barack Obama made when he came to Colorado and visited victims of the shooting, Romney told the crowd that he spoke with a girl who was hit in the face by a bullet in Aurora -- another "Colorado girl with a big heart."
He added, "I guess maybe by applause we show how united we are with the tragedy of those people," prompting cheers from the audience.
Then he quickly moved on to Obama bashing.
Romney brought along a presidential "report card" that he said shows how the economic policies of President Barack Obama have failed, explaining how he has the record from his time as governor to "restore" the United States.
"Ever since I was in elementary school, we had report cards," Romney said. "I'm gonna be a little more straightforward with grading today, because, you see, when the president was here as a candidate, accepting the nomination four years ago in Colorado, he laid out the report card on which he hoped to be judged by.... He went through one-by-one the things he would use to evaluate whether he was making progress or not."
Romney, scoring some laughs and boos from the audience, went through the president's campaign promises, referencing an "accountability scorecard" his campaign gave out to attendees. It had a bunch of red arrows for Obama's record and a bunch of green arrows for Romney's Massachusetts record in areas like jobs, unemployment, home prices, budget deficit and family income.
"The president has been unsuccessful in his number one objective [of job creation]," said Romney, who hasn't campaigned in the Denver metro area since February.
"I know that in campaigns, talk can be cheap. You can say anything. But results, if they're not done the right way, they can be real expensive and you look at this president and he talked about a number of things he was gonna do," Romney said. "He got a lot of people excited...but those people are disappointed.... I know he will be able to speak eloquently and describe all the great things he's doing and what he's going to do. But look at the results.... His policies have not worked. They have not got America back to work again."
The crowd was particularly energetic, giving lengthy cheers and standing ovations when Romney mentioned the importance of repealing Obamacare as well as the failures that come from raising taxes.
In his speech, Romney laid out a five-point plan to support the middle class -- emphasized by large banners in the room that read: "The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class."
"Now I wanna lay out for you specifically what I'm gonna do," Romney said. "It's five things, all right? Five things we're gonna do. I want you to remember five things."
This request of his was supported by signs behind him listing those five things: energy independence, "the skills to succeed" (i.e. better education), trade that works for America, cutting the deficit and championing small businesses.
Page down to read more of his speech and comments from supporters. As usual on the stump, Romney emphasized his business experience, which may or may not be considered a positive factor for voters, depending who you ask.
"I spent 25 years in the private sector," Romney said. "I understand how businesses decide to grow, where they decide to shrink, why they decide to go overseas, how they decide to come back here. I understand what it takes to get America working again. I understand that small businesses...create jobs in America, that people create jobs, not government."
Romney was referencing his campaign's latest soundbite, criticizing Obama for comments about how government helps support business. The Romney team in Colorado has jumped on with "Built by Us" events featuring small business owners who say they, not the government, built their businesses.
This comment spurred folks in the crowd to chant "Go Mitt! Go Mitt!"
He got one of the loudest responses on the topic of taxes. "The problem is this: Taxes are connected to growth. And when you raise taxes, you lower growth. The reason we're so opposed to raising taxes is not just because taxes hurt people and kill jobs, it's also because when you raise taxes, you slow down growth. Fewer jobs get started. Fewer businesses start to grow.... It's like a dog trying to chase its tail.... The right answer is to reduce government spending."
Meanwhile, in Lakewood, the Colorado Dems held a counter-event to respond to Romney's visit, highlighting the ways that Romney's plan, from their perspective, would actually hurt the middle class. In a news release, Obama supporters promoted the campaign's new tax calculator that officials say shows exactly how people would be impacted by Romney's proposals.
Supporters at Romney's event said they were enthused that the campaign picked Jeffco and Colorado as the first stop after Europe.
"It says we are a priority, and we should be," said Shelbie Berry, 60, a Denver resident, who conceded that she has a lot of friends who are on the fence about the race. "I think they're so enamored by Obama's charm, but they see his failures, that he couldn't lead."
Her friend Ginger Stookesberry, 59, chimed in: "Hopefully people will put social issues aside and focus on the economy."
Romney supporter Ann Macomber, a retired teacher from Colorado Springs, said the race will clearly be close. "We've got to get Colorado fired up," she said
She added a reference to the latest Chick-Fil-A controversy, which inspired folks to visit the chain's restaurants yesterday in support of the company's right to criticize gay marriage. "We need to see the same commitment for Romney that we saw for Chick-fil-A yesterday," she said.
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