ORLANDO -- Mitt Romney tied President Obama's signature health reform law to the anemic hiring situation among small businesses on Tuesday, calling the 2010 law the "poster child" for harmful policies enacted during this administration.
"Obamacare," Romney said near the close of his remarks on a factory floor here in a crucial swing state, "is the poster child for a piece of policy that’s made it harder for businesses to hire people, so we’ve got to get rid of it, among other good reasons."
Aides said that Romney's renewed focus on "ObamaCare" anticipates a Supreme Court ruling on that very law this month. Romney has long been haunted by the strong resemblances between the law he signed as governor of Massachusetts (including an individual mandate), but has long since vowed to repeal the president's law should he be elected.
Today's events -- and ones like it in the coming weeks -- allows Romney to get out in front of the Supreme Court ruling, and outline his alternative plans for reforming health care.
To that end, Romney described some of his preferred solutions, such as block-granting Medicaid money to states and allowing consumers to buy insurance across state lines were specific. Others, such as Romney's desire to see health care act more like a market, and allowing states to experiment with their own reforms lacked specificity.
Any effort to replace the law, Romney said, must come after its repeal, a process he said again today he would begin on the first day of his administration -- a line that always gets cheers in Romney's stump speech, and today led to a standing ovation.
Romney also used an answer about the law that Obama gave on Monday to further his case that the president is "out of touch."
The president told a reporter from NBC affiliate KTIV in Sioux City, Iowa that it would be "hard to explain" why a business might have had to move from one state to another due to the health care law, because the law didn't govern that type of business. Republicans, including Romney today, pounced on the comment.
"Just yesterday, the president said something else that shows just how out of touch he is," Romney said. "He said he didn’t understand that Obamacare was hurting small business, he doesn’t understand that Obamacare impacts small business, and you have to scratch your head about that because about a year ago the Chamber of Commerce did a survey of some 1,500 small businesses and of those small businesses, three-quarters, 75 percent, said Obamacare made it less likely for them to hire people."
Romney recast his criticism of President Obama as "out of touch," last Friday after the president told reporters that the private sector was "doing fine," and today he continued to work that line of attack today.
"The president, as you know, said last week that the private sector is doing fine. He is so out of touch with what's happening across America, to say something like that. He went on, of course, this was not just one line taken out of context. He went on to describe why he believes that therefore we should provide another stimulus to hire government workers," Romney said, going on to describe how his own interactions with Americans as he travels the country have made him, not the president, more in touch with the concerns of average folks.
But the Romney campaign has also been forced to defend Romney's own response from last Friday, when he appeared to suggest that the message of the Wisconsin recall was not to hire more teachers, firefighters or police.
"He wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people," Romney said in that interview
Today, Romney told Fox News that Democratic accusations he would want to cut firefighters or teachers were "very strange."
“That's a very strange accusation. Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen. So obviously that's completely absurd," Romney said. “[President Obama]'s got a new idea, though, and that is to have another stimulus and to have the federal government send money to try and bail out cities and states. It didn't work the first time. It certainly wouldn't work the second time.”
Romney had no more to say on the matter when asked by a reporter at his event today today if he thought Democrats had taken his remarks out of context.
"I'm not going to talk about that," Romney said, moving along the rope line.