By Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times –
WAUKESHA, Wis. — Just before President Barack Obama gave his scathing critique of the Republican Party on Tuesday, Mitt Romney sought to blunt the impact by accusing him of failing to take responsibility for the rise in gasoline prices.
Campaigning at a fast-food restaurant in this Milwaukee suburb on the day of Wisconsin’s Republican presidential primary, Romney criticized a television ad that Obama’s re-election campaign started airing this week in six battleground states.
Romney, whom critics in both major parties portray as out of touch, lamented gas prices increasing so high much it can cost $100 to fill the tank of an SUV or pickup truck.
“You get a lot of folks, particularly single moms and people who are just working at the edge, that are having a hard time getting to and from work,” he told voters gathered at a Cousin Subs franchise. “This is a tough time. And so the president put an ad out yesterday talking about gasoline prices and how high they are. And guess who he blamed: me.”
His supporters, many of them eating free submarine sandwiches provided by Romney’s campaign, burst into laughter.
Obama’s ad does not blame Romney for the rise in gasoline prices, but does say that the former Massachusetts governor “stood with Big Oil” against the president’s efforts to end tax breaks for the oil industry, raise mileage standards and expand renewable energy.
Romney, who is favored to defeat GOP rival Rick Santorum Tuesday in Wisconsin, challenged the ad’s assertion that Obama deserved credit for domestic oil production reaching an eight-year high.
“If I’m president of the United States, rather than saying no to oil and gas and coal, and also no to the pipeline from Canada, I will say yes to those,” Romney said.
Romney also mentioned the “buck stops here” sign that President Harry Truman famously kept on his desk in the White House, saying Obama looks “everywhere he can to find someone else to blame.”
“He had a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate for his first two years,” Romney said of Obama.
“He gets full credit or blame for what’s happened in this economy, and what’s happened with gasoline prices under his watch.”
Accompanying Romney was Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, whose House budget plan Obama sharply criticized in his remarks Tuesday at the annual meeting of The Associated Press in Washington. Like Romney, Ryan responded in advance to the president’s attack.
“He’ll try to characterize those people who do not agree with where he’s taking America as if we’re some kind of villain in a cartoon,” Ryan said.
Obama, he said, was trying to divide the country in order to distract from his plans to take it down the wrong path.
“The country can be saved,” Ryan said. “It is not too late to get America back on the right track. It is not too late to say no to the big-government populism that we’re going to be confronted with these days. It is not too late to say no to the partisanship, to the lack of action, to the lack of leadership that we’re getting from the White House.”