- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TAMPA, Fla — Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney urged voters here to make President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday his last and blamed the Democrat for pushing policies that have raised the nation’s unemployment rate, worsened the housing crises and pushed the nation deeper into a sea of red ink.

Standing under an “Obama Isn’t Working” banner, the former Massachusetts governor said that Mr. Obama, during his first three years in office, has “amassed an actual record of debt, decline and disappointment” and pushed the nation toward a “European-style welfare state.”

Along the way, Mr. Romney said that if elected president, he would approve the Keystone Pipeline project, which he and other conservatives claim will put 20,000 people to work, and pursue tax policies aimed at helping middle-class Americans.

“This president’s agenda made these troubled times last longer,” he said, arguing that it “is critical that we make today Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address.”

Billed as a “prebuttal” to the president’s remarks, Mr. Romney’s remarks came as he works to regroup from Newt Gingrich’s landslide victory in the South Carolina primary, which fed into lingering doubts about Mr. Romney’s ability to rally the party’s conservative base.

Since Saturday, he has watched his lead in state polls evaporate and as a result has spent a good chunk of his time casting the former House speaker as unreliable, accusing him of influence-peddling while working as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, and attacking his support for the Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

But in his 15-minute speech here at a manufacturing plant, which he said has been closed since 2008, Mr. Romney didn’t mention any of his Republican rivals and instead chose to aim his fire on Mr. Obama’s speech this evening.

He predicted that the “desperate campaigner-in-chief” will use his speech to offer up his “partisan planks for his re-election campaign” and claim that the “Do Nothing Congress” has tied his hands legislatively.

“But, we shouldn’t forget that for two years, this president had a Congress that could do everything he wanted,” Mr. Romney said. “With huge Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, President Obama was free to pursue any policy he pleased. Did he fix the economy? Did he tackle the housing crisis? Did he get Americans back to work? No.”

Instead, he said, the president gave the American people costly policies that they didn’t want, including the $814 billion stimulus package, the overhaul of the federal health-care system and the “Cash for Clunkers” program.

“He’s spearheaded one of the largest expansions of government in American history. And he’s paying for it with money borrowed from China,” Mr. Romney said.

The Obama administration offered a few policy details about the contents of the speech, but the president’s spokesman said Monday that it would focus on four main pillars — energy, manufacturing, skills for American workers and American values.

Mr. Romney said that if he were delivering the speech he’d outline his agenda for a “simpler, smaller and smarter” federal government, while also calling on Congress to approve the Keystone Pipeline project, simply the tax code and push back against proposed cuts to the defense budget, which amounts to about one-fifth of national spending.

“If I were speaking to Congress tonight, I’d note that it’s now been one thousand days since the Senate last passed a budget,” he said. “That’s irresponsible. It’s unacceptable. And, as president, I will cut spending, cap spending, and finally balance the budget.”

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