TILTON, N.H. - The words of criticism emanating from the nation’s heartland took Mitt Romney aback yesterday. The source was even more surprising for the Republican presidential candidate.
“Someone had written an op-ed in the Des Moines Register attacking me and blaming me for the economy,’’ Romney told voters at the Tilt’n Diner here. “I thought, now who would have the chutzpah . . . or the delusion to imagine that I was responsible for the decline of this economy over the last three years.
“And it was none other than Vice President Joe Biden.’’
Biden, a self-professed “regular Joe’’ who often refers to his working-class roots in Scranton, Pa., tweaked Romney, a former venture capitalist, for trying to assume the role of protector of the middle class.
Romney called the criticism misplaced and the vice president out of touch.
“You wonder in some respects what fantasy land he lives in,’’ Romney added. “He needs to get out and meet with people. He seems to think that he and the president have made things better. They haven’t made things better.’’
Biden’s criticism of Romney was the latest from President Obama’s reelection campaign. The former Massachusetts governor has been target number one for the Democrats.
“How can anyone forget the economic catastrophe brought about by the same policies Mr. Romney’s proposing?’’ Biden wrote.
Romney said he understands the attention.
“They’re getting ready for a tough battle down the road,’’ Romney said. “I think they realize what’s coming. I hope they’re right. I hope I’m the nominee.’’
Romney made the comment at the start of the third and last day of a bus tour of New Hampshire.
His candidacy has been staked on economic grounds, with the White House and Romney already squabbling over how to get things back on track. But with the economy starting to show some signs of improvement, it could alter Romney’s core argument against Obama. Rather than turning the election into an argument over why the president hasn’t fixed the economy, he would have to argue why he didn’t fix it sooner.
“Well of course the economy will get better,’’ Romney said yesterday. “There has never been a time in American history when a downturn is not replaced by a period of growth. . . . The question is, has this recovery been as speedy as it should have been. . . . [and] has the president been willing to take on the looming challenges we face to make sure that we have a bright future?’’
— Matt Viser
Bachmann calls deal on payroll tax a mistake
CHARITON, Iowa - Michele Bachmann already sent her bus driver home for Christmas. So with the coach parked in a Des Moines lot, she rolled across rural southern Iowa yesterday in an SUV, the only Republican presidential candidate still campaigning in the state.
The Minnesota congresswoman, speaking to reporters in Chariton, called the House deal to extend the payroll tax break a “mistake’’ because it will reduce the flow of money into the Social Security trust fund.
But proponents of the tax holiday say general revenues replenish the fund.
Asked about the $40 average Americans would lose on their paychecks without an extension, Bachmann said good fiscal managers must prioritize.
She also said she promised to become an “iron lady’’ in the White House, akin to Margaret Thatcher in Britain in the 1980s. And speaking to voters in a pizza shop in the farming community of Corydon, she took a number of potshots at President Obama.
Calling America a gift from God, she said Obama has “treated this gift like we’re a banana republic. We’re not. We’re a first-world country.’’
— Christopher Rowland
Romney donations bolster conservative credentials
WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney has donated at least $260,000 from his family charity foundation over the past six years to Republican causes and influential conservative groups that could deepen his ties within the party and establish his credibility on the right.
Romney gave $100,000 last year to the George W. Bush Library in Dallas, according to the foundation’s tax records. Over two presidential runs, Romney has donated to core conservative organizations in Washington and other groups on the right in Massachusetts.
Romney’s campaign says he had no hidden motivation, and many of the groups say no strings were attached. Observers say the donations were smart political moves, but some caution that the gifts could raise questions about whether Romney was trying to buy support on the right.
— Associated Press