By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times –
CRAIG, Colo. — Campaigning in coal country, Mitt Romney argued Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s administration is hostile to business in general and the energy industry in particular, favors government workers over the private sector, and he claimed that small improvements in the nation’s economy are in spite of the president’s policies.
“This man is out of ideas, he’s out of excuses and in November we’re going to make sure to vote him out of office,” Romney told more than 1,000 people gathered in a picturesque park in the heart of this small northwestern Colorado town.
“Now his campaign these days is trying to find a twig to hang on to, some little excuse they can grab and say, ‘Look, things are getting a little better, aren’t they?’ And the answer is yeah, things are getting a little better in a lot of places in this country, but it’s not thanks to his policies,” he said. “It’s in spite of his policies. You see, every recession ultimately comes to an end, but you’d expect that this deep recession might come back to an aggressive turnaround, but it didn’t happen.”
Romney made no mention of the fact he is expected to clinch the GOP nomination Tuesday night once Texas holds its primary.
The rally took place in a town that was the focus of a film created by the American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity, which are heavily funded by the oil industry. Coal miners clad in steel-toed boots were brought in from their work places.
Romney used the setting to reiterate his criticism that Obama has damaged the nation’s economy by favoring green energy and failing to tap all forms of domestic energy.
“He says he’s for ‘all of the above’ when it comes for energy, you heard that. And yet he’s made it harder to get coal out of the ground, he’s made it harder to get natural gas out of the ground, he’s made it harder to get oil out of the ground,” Romney said. “I want energy above and below the ground. I want coal, gas, oil, nuclear as well as renewables.”
The Obama campaign said Romney was lying about the president’s record and cited reports on energy production.
“Mitt Romney simply refuses to tell the truth about President Obama’s energy record. Contrary to Romney’s dishonest rhetoric in Colorado today, President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy has led to both greater energy production and higher employment in the energy sector,” said spokeswoman Lis Smith, adding that domestic oil production has increased while dependence on foreign oil has decreased during the president’s tenure.
According to local reports, Romney’s message is not entirely on target in Colorado because coal production is increasing in the state, and recent mandates the industry is fighting are coming from state regulators, not the federal government.
The Obama campaign has been hitting Romney over his record as leader of Bain Capital, and Romney is responding this week by arguing that the Obama administration is hostile to business.
“Government sees small business and big business as the enemy. We’re not the enemy,” Romney said. “Some of these liberals say they like a strong economy but then they act like they don’t like business. An economy is nothing but the collection of all of our businesses together. I want our government to support small business, middle-size business, big business. I want jobs. I want government that’s an ally of business not an enemy of business.”
He promised not to forget the plight of struggling families like the ones he met in Craig.
“I’m not going to forget Craig, Colorado. I’m not going to forget communities like this across the country that are hurting right now under this president,” he said. “I’m not going to forget middle-class families that are asking themselves why is it that 31/2 years after this president got elected, we’re still in a tough economy like this. Some of the numbers look like they’re getting better, but I know a lot of people are still suffering.”
Romney left Colorado to head to Las Vegas, where he will hold a public event before attending a fundraiser with controversial supporter Donald Trump that the campaign hopes will raise $2 million.