- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Wednesday that neither presidential candidate is talking about America’s biggest challenges in the campaign, and Washington is failing the country.

Speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce one block from the White House, Mr. Romney also engaged in some soul-searching about losing the race in 2012. He lamented his failure to clearly articulate his ideas for helping the middle class economically four years ago.

“We (conservatives) know what it takes to actually raise wages,” Mr. Romney said. “And it’s something which, gosh, I kick myself as a Republican nominee for president not having done a better job communicating this.”

Mr. Romney, who has been critical of Donald Trump, never mentioned the Republican nominee or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by name. But he said “there’s almost no discussion” by either candidate about solving the nation’s debt crisis, income inequality or the growth of entitlement programs.

He has been a factor behind the scenes in the presidential race, however. Mormon independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, who is in a statistical tie with Mr. Trump and beating Mrs. Clinton in Utah, has received indirect support from Mr. Romney and said he’d welcome an endorsement, which could put him over the top in the state. A loss in reliably Republican Utah would be a huge blow to Mr. Trump’s chances.

“Governor Romney also believes that Donald Trump is a true threat to this country, and Mitt will do what he needs to do playing the cards that he has, to achieve the goal of stopping Donald Trump,” he told The Washington Times in an interview. “He just needs to make that decision for himself.”

Mr. McMullin said Mr. Romney has been “helpful” to his third-party candidacy.

“Some of his best strategic advisers are helping us. Some other people, part of his finance team came on board,” he said. “He’s allowing us to use his mailing list. But there are some specific ways that he can put his thumb on the scale that need to be calibrated for stopping Donald Trump, and specifically for that. So he’ll do what he needs to do, but we are just getting so much traction on our own and that’s where we’re focused.”

At the Chamber of Commerce event, Mr. Romney trained most of his fire on Washington in general, rather than Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. He also criticized President Obama indirectly for failing to address the nation’s biggest problems.

“Our federal government seems incapable of dealing with the major challenges that our country faces,” Mr. Romney said, citing forecasts of rising debt and entitlement spending. “There is virtually no effort that has been undertaken in the last eight years or so to stop the creep of these programs … There just isn’t the will in Washington to deal with them.”

The former Massachusetts governor mentioned national security threats from China, Russia and Islamic jihadis, and observed, “In spite of all that, we continue to shrink our military footprint and our capacity.”

He also said Washington has made it less attractive to do business in the U.S., due to high taxes and increasing regulation

Reflecting on his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Romney suggested that he failed to make a seamless transition with his messaging to voters after he won the Republican primary.

“When you speak, as you do in a primary, to people who are strong Republicans and conservatives, you begin to speak in shorthand because they’ve heard the kind of remarks that I’d make, they’ve heard it time and again, and they sort of understand what you mean,” he said. “So when I’m talking about making America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, and when I want to make America a terrific place for small business and big business, when I want to see corporations thrive and grow in America, what my primary audience hears is something which they can connect with.”

But in the general election, voters needed to hear a different message from him, he said.

“The audience at large, they think the reason I’m talking about business is because all I care about is rich people and business leaders,” Mr. Romney told the business leaders. “Look, rich people and business people do well whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge. The real people who suffer when business is leaving or not successful are the people in the middle class. If you want to get wages up in America for middle income Americans, there’s only one way I know how to do that in real terms … by having more businesses want to hire more people.”

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