TAMPA, FL -- Hours before President Obama is set to deliver his third State of the Union address, Mitt Romney delivered a "pre-buttal" speech of his own, in which the former Massachusetts governor predicted a "desperate" Obama would "tell tall tales" about an economic recovery.
"Tonight, we’ll also be treated to more divisive rhetoric from a desperate campaigner-in-chief. It’s shameful for a president to use the State of the Union to divide our nation. And someone ought to tell him: In order to put the economy back to work everyone needs to be working," Romney said. "Here in Florida you know better. You know this president has run out of time. This president has run out of ideas. This president has run out of excuses. In 2012 we've got to make sure that he is run out of the office of the White House."
Romney's address, delivered from a massive, empty factory floor, was designed to be a clear, "definitional" speech upon which he could base his Florida campaign, a senior adviser said afterwards. That's in contrast to the campaign's efforts in South Carolina, which consisted primarily of a series of rallies and lacked a single clear message.
With last night's battle with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich behind him, Romney returned to his central message: President Obama must be replaced. Romney spent the first half of his speech describing what he saw as the president's many failures, and characterizing tonight's address as nothing but a campaign speech.
"Instead of solving the housing crisis and getting Americans back to work, President Obama has been building a European-style welfare state. He has pushed for a second stimulus and deep cuts to our national defense," Romney said, standing beneath a banner that read, "Obama isn't working."
"He’s asking the American people for another trillion dollars – and another term in office. He keeps telling people, 'We can’t wait.' To which I say, 'Yes, we can,'" Romney said.
In the latter half of Romney's speech, he offered what he said would he his own State of the Union address, in which he said he would have the "courage to tell the American people how it is" and not offer blame. He provided no new policy prescriptions, but instead ticked off a series of his stump speech talking points, including strengthening national defense, and cutting taxes for the middle class.
The speech marked a pivot point from Romney's engagement last night with GOP rivals, including his release this morning of his most recent tax returns. (Those records had been demanded by Gingrich.)
"As far as we're concerned we put [the tax return issue] to bed," the senior adviser said.