MIAMI -- Addressing a crowd of mostly seniors and using a new visual aid, Mitt Romney hit Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the Texas governor's past statements that Social Security may be unconstitutional and should be a state program.
As dual giant projector screens posed six questions directed to Perry -- about how Social Security would actually work at the state level -- Romney lambasted the idea, arguing that such a system would not work in "any way, shape or form"
The Perry campaign responded with this statement: “Mitt Romney's own book compared Social Security to a criminal enterprise. Now Mr. Romney is again sounding like a Democrat, distorting the truth and trying to scare senior citizens. As he has so many times in the past, Mr. Romney seems to forget he's a Republican."
Romney also used this appearance before a group of perhaps 70 voters (as well as a healthy number of reporters) to advance another major argument for his nomination: that he is the most electable candidate against President Obama.
Asked how he could help Senate candidates in addition to just campaigning for them, Romney replied, "I'm going to be the Republican candidate who can win, and I say that with significance," adding he believed that he could win over independent voters, women, and even some Democrats.
"President Obama is doing a great job of rallying our base," he said to laughter from the crowd. "There’s almost nothing we can do…that’s as motivational as what he’s doing to get our voters out and voting."
The former Massachusetts governor also said he would not be pushed to the right in a primary -- or to the center in a general election -- because he had mapped out his positions in his own recent book, and that those represent where he is.
"I think the American people recognize that we’re at a point of crisis and they want to hear the truth. And they can tell when people are being phony and are pandering to an audience, and you’ll see that in politics. You’re not going to see that in my campaign."
(Romney critics, however, argue that his chief weakness may very well be his ability to pander. He once supported abortion rights; he's now against them. He once supported embryonic stem-cell research; now he's against it. He once called his Massachusetts health-care law a model for the country; now he wants to repeal a federal law based largely on his state law.)
When a reporter asked Romney after the event who he felt was being a phony, exactly, he declined to name names.
Romney took a few questions from the audience pertaining to local issues like immigration and the United States' relationship with Latin America, which he said he hopes to strengthen by appointing a presidential envoy to take responsibility for the region.
On immigration, Romney again criticized Perry by name -- for the Texas governor's opposition to a full-border fence, the Arizona immigration law, and for creating a "magnet" for illegal immigrants by allowing in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants in Texas.
For his part, Romney theorized that using a point system similar to those used in other countries to determine who can immigrate here legally might be one way to reform the system of legal immigration.
Asked by NBC after the event if his criticisms of the President's policies on Israel were appropriate given the sensitivity of ongoing negotiations at the United Nations today, Romney expanded upon his original remarks.
"I think what the president did was an error with regards to Israel was begin dictating what he would do saying here you should do this and you should that. Those kinds of discussions should be held behind closed doors," Romney said. "The president should not be negotiating for his ally Israel. The president should stand behind Israel and negotiations and discussions should be held in private if the president has a different view than they do."