TAMPA -- On a morning where job creation -- or the lack of it -- was the primary issue on the political spectrum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney promised that his plan -- not President Obama's -- would be the one to get Americans back to work.
"My plan radically restructures the American economy to do what it's done in the past," Romney told supporters at the opening of his Florida headquarters here. "Lead the world, create jobs, drive rising incomes, and make sure that America remains the strong nation that can defend ourselves and provide a future of promise and prosperity for our kids."
Romney also attacked the president's plan, set to be unveiled before a joint session of congress two days after Romney presents his plan.
"I haven't seen his, but I saw version one, two, three, four and five of his jobs plan and last month it came out with zero new jobs," Romney said, referencing today's newest employment statistics, which had the U.S. unemployment rate holding steady at 9.1% and a net-zero number of jobs created.
While Romney today did not provide any new details on his jobs plan, he once again hinted at several elements it is likely to contain.
"I will make business taxes competitive with other nations, eliminate burdensome regulations and bureaucracy, and support America’s workers instead of its union bosses." Romney said in a breakfast time speech to Hispanic leaders, gathered for the annual Republican Hispanic National Assembly meeting.
In that speech to the RHNA, Romney also focused heavily on immigration policy, including hitting the president for not addressing the issue more forcefully.
"Three years ago, candidate Obama promised to address the problems of illegal immigration in America. He failed," Romney said. "The truth is, he didn’t even try."
Some analysts believe a focus on immigration could help Romney create contrasts with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose support for allowing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants in Texas has drawn conservative fire. Romney addressed the issue this morning.
"As governor, I vetoed legislation that would have provided in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants," Romney said, "and I strengthened the authority our state troopers had to enforce existing immigration laws."
The nonpartisan Annenberg Factcheck.org notes -- and as First Read has pointed out -- that the state-trooper authorization to which Romney was referring was passed with just weeks left in his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, and was immediately rescinded by his successor before taking effect.
Romney's focus on the hot-button issue of immigration before a receptive, heavily Hispanic audience here underscores the importance of the state of Florida, in both the GOP primary, and the general election. Obama carried the state by just three percentage points in 2008; Bush won Florida in 2004, and since then the election of Republicans as governor and U.S. senator have given the GOP renewed hope of returning the Sunshine State to the red column in 2012.
Romney praised that new senator, Marco Rubio, himself a child of Cuban immigrants, as one of the country's "great leaders." In a few other nods to the largely conservative Cuban community here, he also praised GOP Sen. Mel Martinez, and mentioned derisively, as he has in previous stops, past praise given to President Obama by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Romney will return the state at least twice more this month, for debates here in Tampa and in Orlando. But based on the heightened importance of the state to his campaign because of the entry of Perry, he will likely to be making several more stops here.
"I think you will be the state that really sets the final compass," Romney said to his supporters at the headquarters event, just blocks from the site of next year's GOP convention. "Florida is huge."