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Romney courts Arizona primary voters, slams Obama’s budget plan

By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times –

MESA, Ariz. — Mitt Romney slammed President Barack Obama’s budget proposal on Monday, arguing that the president has failed to keep campaign promises to reduce the nation’s deficit while at the same time jeopardizing the safety net for seniors.

“The president came out with a new budget today,” Romney said, and the crowd of a few thousand at the Mesa Amphitheater groaned. “And you have a reason for that response. He unfortunately came out with another $1 trillion deficit. And if you recall, back in his election, he said that he was going to cut in half our deficit by the end of his first term. Well, he just did the opposite — he doubled it by the end of his first term.”

Romney added that Obama failed to deal with Social Security and Medicare.

“This president miraculously today with his new budget had nothing to say about making sure that those programs are solvent and permanent,” he said, pledging that if he were elected president, he would ensure these programs were safe for future generations.

Romney made his remarks in a state with 29 delegates at stake and where early voting has already begun for a Feb. 28 primary. The former Massachusetts governor has the backing of key establishment figures here, including his 2008 rival Sen. John McCain, and the most recent polling shows him winning handily, but the surveys were done before rival Rick Santorum surged in recent days.

Voters who share Romney’s Mormon faith make up one-tenth of the GOP electorate in Arizona, and Mesa is a hub. Voters attending the event here cheered heartily when Romney mentioned his faith.

“My conservatism did not come so much from reading the writings of great conservative scholars as it did from living my life, my family, my faith, my business,” he said.

He barely mentioned his GOP rivals except to cast them as creatures of Washington. Rep. Ron Paul, the only one Romney mentioned by name, was a physician before becoming a congressman, but “the other guys have spent their lives entirely in government,” Romney said.

“We elected in President Obama someone who has never run anything, someone who has never been a leader,” he said. “We’re not going to do that in the Republican Party. Let’s not nominate someone who has never done anything and has not been a leader. That experience counts.”

In asking the crowd for their support, Romney emphasized his resume.

“This is a critical time. America has a choice to nominate someone who’s actually led, who’s led in business, who’s been able to lead an Olympics, and has been able to lead in a state, and bring that experience to Washington, not to become like Washington,” he said. “I’m going to go to Washington, and with your help, we’ll get this country turned around and then I’ll go home. I’m not in love with Washington, I’m in love with my family, and I want to be back with my family as soon as we get this nation turned around. With your help, we’ll make that happen.”

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