- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Tuesday for a broad rewrite of the relationship between businesses and Washington, promising an annual growth rate of 4 percent and 11.5 million more jobs under a Romney administration.

Mr. Romney’s speech was the curtain-raiser for an active week on economic issues and in the presidential campaign, which is gearing up after Labor Day. Republican presidential candidates will debate in California on Wednesday, and President Obama follows the next night with a major address to a joint session of Congress.

Mr. Romney, who was a one-term governor of Massachusetts, called for cutting government regulations and took particular aim at China, arguing that the top U.S. competitor for the position as the world’s leading economy is manipulating its currency and must face consequences if it does not abide by international trade rules.

“I’ll clamp down on the cheaters, and China’s the worst example of that,” he said as he stood beneath a banner that read, “Day one, job one.” “We’re not going to have a trade war, but we’re not going to have a trade surrender, either.”

The jobs issue has dominated politics over the past three years as the economy hit a deep recession and sputtered in recovering. Last week brought news that the economy did not add any net jobs in August.

Mr. Romney, who ran an investment fund before turning to politics, repeatedly blamed the president for stifling the economy by expanding government without promoting growth.

“He’s not a bad guy. He just doesn’t have a clue what to do,” Mr. Romney said, calling the president’s economic plans “a pay-phone strategy, and we’re a smartphone world.”

The Democratic National Committee, in a memo issued before his speech, said Mr. Romney was rehashing old ideas and contended that his desire to win tea party voters in the Republican primary is costing him credibility.

“By adopting the extreme policy prescriptions of the tea party, we know Mitt Romney’s vision is of an America that has to lower its sights, can’t realize its full potential and has to put the narrow interests of the privileged few ahead of everyone else,” the DNC said.

It also sought to turn his real-world business experience against him, saying he laid off workers during his time as head of Bain Capital LLC, the private equity firm he ran.

Mr. Romney pointed to the firm’s investment in Staples, the office-supply chain that he said some had argued against funding, but which is now responsible for 90,000 jobs.

Mr. Romney is running second in national surveys of the GOP’s presidential field, having surrendered the lead last month to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

In a statement Tuesday, Mark Miner, a spokesman for Mr. Perry, said Mr. Romney failed to create a job-producing environment during his term as governor of Massachusetts and whiffed when he could have instituted some of the policies he announced in his speech.

Still, given his credentials, Mr. Romney’s economic speech is likely to be the standard by which the other Republican candidates will be judged, and it inevitably will be contrasted with Mr. Obama’s speech on Thursday.

The president has said he will call for infrastructure investment, for extending benefits to deal with the long-term jobless, and for extending the payroll tax cut that he and congressional Republicans agreed to enact last year in an effort to boost the economy.

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