COLUMBIA, SC -- Back on the stump for the first time since Saturday night's debate with his GOP rivals, Mitt Romney wasted little time in turning his focus back to President Obama, lashing out at the president for making "disparaging" comments about Americans.
"Sometimes, I just don't think that President Obama understands America," Romney said. "I say that because this week -- Or was it last week? -- he said that Americans are lazy. I don't think that describes America. Before that I think it was in October, he was saying we have lost our inventiveness, and our ambition. Before that he was saying other disparaging things about Americans. I just don't think he understands -- he was saying we just weren't working hard enough. I don't think he gets what's happening in this country."
Romney was referencing remarks made by the president at Saturday's APEC summit in Hawaii, where he was asked about government policies that serve as impediments to foreign investment in the United States, not about Americans generally.
"I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity -- our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture," Obama said. "But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted -- well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America."
Later in his remarks, Romney hit the president again, perhaps a bit more gently, for his broader economic policies.
"Now I don't want to be too critical, the president came in, and I think never having worked in the private sector, he went to work trying to make things better. And remember that old Ronald Reagan line - he says the most frightening thing you could possibly hear are, 'I'm here from the government and I'm here to help,'" Rommey said. "And so he did almost everything, in my view, wrong."
The balance of Romney's speech, which followed an introduction by his wife, Ann, was focused on his own economic and fiscal policy. He touched on his plans to shut down various government programs, and send Medicaid back to the states, but spent the most time on labor policy.
Speaking on the floor of Colite, a non-union sign factory, Romney tailored his speech to reflect the anti-union sentiment among Republican voters here, fueled by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) lawsuit charging that Boeing built a factory in South Carolina to punish striking workers in Washington State.
Romney said that President Obama paid unions back for helping him get elected by appointing “stooges to the NLRB.”
“You know something about that in South Carolina,” he said, alluding to the NLRB/Boeing case.
Romney said that American workers were entitled to protections including the right to a secret ballot, the right to 30 days notice before a union election, the right to resist mandatory unionization and the right to work in a non-union state.
*** UPDATE *** Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt responds: “Only Mitt Romney would criticize the president for encouraging CEOs to promote the United States abroad in order to create American jobs and attract investment at home. Maybe that’s because when Mitt Romney was a finance executive, he was more focused on outsourcing American jobs and creating profits for investors without any regard for the impact of his decisions on middle class families.”