Mitt Romney takes aim at Obama in speech

President Obama has “declared war on free enterprise” and is leading the country with “counterfeit values,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Friday in a speech before a gathering of socially conservative activists.

“I’m afraid that some in Washington today are driven by such different values that they would change the very character of America,” Romney told the Values Voters Summit in remarks that began with a sharp critique of the president’s handling of the economy and ended with soaring praise for the founding fathers.

Romney was among a handful of possible Republican presidential candidates scheduled to speak at the annual two-day conference. Although delivered to a crowd made up largely of Christian conservatives, the remarks seemed aimed at a far broader audience and seemed to preview the recurring themes of the next presidential election.

Romney seemed to pick up where his 2008 failed bid for the Republican nomination left off. He accused Obama of diverting his attention away from the economy and charged that the nation’s continued economic troubles were a result of the president’s inexperience.

“We argued during the campaign that it was no time for on-the-job training. If he or his economic advisors had any experience in the private sector he would have known that the first three rules for any turnaround are focus, focus and focus,” said Romney, a former corporate executive and founder of a private equity investment firm.

Romney called the president’s healthcare overhaul plan “ill-conceived,” although he did not explain the description in detail. As governor, Romney signed a healthcare bill which, like Obama’s plan, required individuals to have health insurance. Romney did not mention the bill.

He charged the president with trying to replace American values with liberal values, which he described as supporting unions, deficit spending, income redistribution and government control of healthcare. In a nod to the “tea party” movement, Romney praised the first colonists and founding fathers as driven by a “thirst for freedom.”

“Our is a creed of the pioneer, the innovator, the striver who expects no guarantee of success, but asks only to live and work in freedom,” he said. “This creed, this value, is under assault in Washington today.”