BEDFORD, N.H. – Mitt Romney, in a speech tonight that his campaign billed as his “closing argument” before Republican voters start selecting their nominee, focused almost exclusively on President Obama and cast the election as “a battle for America’s soul.”
“This is an election not to replace a president but to save a vision of America,” Romney said before a packed crowd of about 150 at the Bedford Town Hall. “It’s a choice between two destinies.”
Romney used particularly sharp rhetoric, casting Obama as divisive, someone who, instead of lifting the country up, uses “the invisible boot of government to bring us all down.”
“I have a vision of a very different America, an America united not by our limits but by our ambitions, our hopes and our shared dreams,” Romney said, wearing jeans and an open-collared shirt and reading from a Teleprompter. “I am tired of a president who wakes up every day, looks out across America and is proud to announce, ‘It could be worse.’ It could be worse? Is that what it means to be an American? It could be worse?”
As he has in recent days, he accused Obama of creating “an entitlement society” where Americans are too reliant on government.
“President Barack Obama has reversed John Kennedy’s call for sacrifice,” Romney said. “He would have Americans ask, ‘What can the country do for you?’”
In one of his most biting lines, Romney said, “We’re bigger than the misguided policies and weak leadership of one man. American is bigger than Barack Obama’s failures.”
The speech kicks off a three-day bus tour around New Hampshire, which tomorrow takes him to Keene, Newport, Hanover, and Ashland. After leading national polls earlier in the campaign, Romney is fighting Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, for the front-runner post. Yet, not once in the 15-minute speech did Romney mention his arch-rival.
Instead, the focus was the president.
The Obama campaign had preemptively criticized Romney in a conference call with reporters.
“The first tenet of Mitt Romney’s economic policy is to let Wall Street write its own rules again, allowing the same type of risky financial deals that put our entire economy at risk and held the middle class hostage,” Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign. “The president believes we need to build an economy where hard work and responsibility are rewarded and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
Earlier in the day Romney called super PACs – which have arguably benefited his campaign more than any other – “a disaster.” The new political action committees, which can take unlimited donations, have taken out a bevy of negative ads against Gingrich.
“Campaign finance law has made a mockery of our political campaign season,” Romney said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these super PACs.”
But when asked to call on groups to stop the attacks, including the one supporting his candidacy, Romney demurred.
“I’m not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape or form,” Romney said. “If we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the big house.”
He cited laws that prevent candidates from coordinating with the super PACs. But that hasn’t prevented Romney from utilizing a ruling this year that allows candidates to raise money for super PACs. Romney did so earlier this year, appearing at a fundraiser for Restore Our Future.
As Romney closed his speech tonight, he said, “It’s getting close now. I think Christmas is coming soon, right? I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and Happy Hanukkah and all the holidays that are celebrated in this great land.”
“Your primary is coming up real soon,” he added. “And I’d like to win.”Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.