IRWIN, PA -- Mitt Romney sought Tuesday to pivot to offense versus President Obama with a fiery speech at a rally here accusing the president of "crony capitalism" and a fundamental misunderstanding of business.
After having spent nearly a week on the defensive over his refusal to release more than two years of tax returns and amid a barrage of criticism of his tenure at Bain Capital, Romney ripped into what he said was a telling remark about Obama's view of government.
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives on stage before speaking at a campaign rally at Horizontal Wireline Services July 17 in Irwin, Pa.
The president said Friday at a campaign event that, "If you’ve got a business, you did not build that -– somebody else made that happen," in a larger monologue about the importance of government support for business.
"That somebody else is government in his view. He goes on to describe the people who deserve the credit for building this business and, of course, he describes people who we care very deeply about who make a difference in our lives, Romney said, referencing teachers, firefighters and other public workers.
"But you know, we pay for those things, alright; the taxpayers pay for government. It's not like government just provides those to all of us and we say oh thank you government for doing those things no in fact we pay for them and we benefit for them and we appreciate the work that they do and the sacrifices that are done by people who work in government," Romney added. "But they did not build this business."
The presumptive GOP nominee then launched into a list of historic American entrepreneurs to prove his point. Those figures, Romney argued, built their empires through their own efforts.
"The idea to say that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple. That Henry Ford didn’t build Ford motor," Romney said, continuing to list other prominent American companies. "To say something like that is not just foolishness, it’s insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America, and it’s wrong."
Buoyed by a crowd of roughly 1,000 supporters here in a deeply Republican part of the state, Romney came out swinging this afternoon, hitting the president with a charge of "crony capitalism," in the case of Fisker automotive.
"I'm ashamed to say that we're seeing the president hand out money to the businesses of campaign contributors. When he gave money -- $500 million dollars in loans to a company called Fisker that makes high-end electric cars -- and they make the cars now in Finland, that is wrong, and it has got to stop," Romney said. "That kind of crony capitalism does not create jobs and it does not create jobs here. I believe in free people and free markets and I want government to get out of investing in individual businesses."
Democrats have often pointed out Romney entered into similar partnerships during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts.
Romney once again invoked former Democratic President Bill Clinton in attacking Obama in an effort to drive a wedge between Obama and more centrists Democrats and independents who supported Clinton but may not be enamored with this president's policies, which Romney called "extraordinarily foreign."
"What he is saying is his justification for a larger and larger government," Romney said, pivoting to attack the president's health care plan. "This is very different by the way than the Democratic party of Bill Clinton, that said that the era of big government was over. That reformed welfare -- you heard that story by the way -- he is trying to take work out of welfare requirement. It is changing the nature of America, changing the nature of what Democrats have fought for and Republicans have fought for."