Nation

Romney says Obama sees free enterprise as a villain

In Iowa speech, Republican hits foe on economy

Candidate Mitt Romney spoke to swing-state voters in Des Moines, pledging again to repeal Obama’s health care law.

CHARLIE NEIBERGALL/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Candidate Mitt Romney spoke to swing-state voters in Des Moines, pledging again to repeal Obama’s health care law.

DES MOINES - With analogies stretching from pioneering homesteaders to sophisticated cellphones, Mitt Romney cast President Obama as an enemy of capitalism while calling himself the defender of fiscal responsibility Tuesday at Drake University.

Romney’s campaign billed the address as a major policy speech in a swing state, yet the candidate revealed no new details of his economic plan. He pledged to make the government “simpler, smaller, smarter’’ and repeated an earlier promise to cap federal spending at 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

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Romney vowed again to repeal Obama’s health care law and said he would reform Medicare and Social Security, without delving into specific strategies. Romney also railed against government bailouts and profligate spending, appealing to the frontier spirit of the Midwest.

“When the men and women who settled the Iowa prairie saw a fire in the distance, they didn’t look around for someone else to save them or go back to sleep and hope the wind might change directions,’’ he said. “They knew that survival was up to them. A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and across the nation, and every day that we fail to act, that fire gets closer to the homes and the children we love.’’

The address by the presumptive GOP presidential nominee came a day after Republicans announced a weeklong plan to scrutinize Obama’s handling of federal spending, which Representative Steve King of Iowa called “out of control.’’

The Republican National Committee released a Web video Monday attacking the president for failing to cut the federal budget deficit in half by the end of his first term, as he repeatedly promised to do.

The speech at Drake also gave Romney a platform to return to the central theme of his campaign, the economy. Romney called the president an “old-school liberal whose first instinct is to see free enterprise as the villain and government as the hero.’’

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To illustrate his point, the presumptive Republican nominee referenced the smart phones audience members used to capture his remarks. “BlackBerry got things going, and then Apple introduced the iPhone, and now the Android platform is leading the market,’’ Romney said. “In the world of free enterprise, competition brings us better and better products at lower and lower cost. That’s the whole idea. Not because they’re all smarter but because there are so many people competing with ideas, trying to come up with better ways to come up with better products. And the customer - that’s us, by the way - is who benefits from all this.’’

The federal government, Romney argued, has no serious competitor and therefore has little incentive to be better and more efficient. If the government were the only legal supplier of cellphones, he said, it would not yet be in the market but would be floundering in congressional hearings.

Romney made only a passing reference to his tenure as Massachusetts governor, an omission the Obama campaign seized upon in a rebuttal to the speech.

“It’s not surprising why Mitt Romney consistently ignores his record as governor on the campaign trail,’’ Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in an e-mail pointing out that state spending increased when Romney was in office.

“While President Obama has put forward a plan to reduce the national debt by more than $4 trillion over the next decade, Mitt Romney refuses to say what spending cuts or tax increases he’d make to cover the cost of giving $5 trillion in tax breaks,’’ Smith added.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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