By Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press –
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanted to compare his positions on the economy and jobs with those of President Barack Obama and even give a preview of his Friday policy speech to the Detroit Economic Club.
But a crowd of about 500 people at a town hall meeting at Eagle Manufacturing in Shelby Township, Mich., had other ideas Tuesday. They asked questions — about abortion, contraception, his choice for running mate and his views on the federal bailout of the auto industry.
Feleiteau Epley, 58, of Shelby Township wanted assurances that Romney is 100 percent pro-life — no exceptions for embryonic stem-cell research and no abortions — as well as opposed to same-sex marriage.
Romney said he “consistently stood as a pro-life governor” and fought legislation that would have allowed same- sex marriage in Massachusetts.
“It’s the most important issue. If they’re not (pro-life), I’m not going to vote for them,” said Epley, adding she’s now likely to support Romney.
Meanwhile, a retired General Motors employee asked how Romney could support bankruptcy for the auto industry at a time when banks weren’t lending the money that any company would need to reorganize and emerge from bankruptcy. When Romney said he supported right-to-work legislation, the applause was tepid. Eagle Manufacturing is a nonunion shop.
Wayne Robertson, 77, of Warren, Mich., said he is leaning toward voting for Rick Santorum in next Tuesday’s Republican primary because, as a union man, he doesn’t like Romney’s support for right-to-work laws.
“That could be a real problem on the plant floor,” he said.
His son, Wayne Robertson, 48, also of Warren, said he thinks he’ll vote for Romney, in part because the former Massachusetts governor is a Michigan native and in part because he thinks Romney would have a better chance to defeat Obama than Santorum would.
“He’s not too far right or too far left,” the son said.
As for selecting a running mate, Romney jokingly said, “I’ve already promised the job to (Michigan Attorney General) Bill Schuette,” who introduced him before the town hall. Romney said his top priorities for a running mate are a person who is 100 percent pro-life and unquestionably capable to run the country if he can’t.
Nick Kovasity, 73, and his wife, Jane Kovasity, 68, of Ortonville, Mich., saw Santorum when he campaigned in Michigan last week and were undecided when they came to see Romney on Tuesday.
They felt a better connection with Romney after the town hall but still weren’t sure.
“I got a clearer understanding of him,” Nick Kovasity said. “I’ll probably decide when I walk into the voting booth.”