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Romney focused on Obama, delegates ahead of Southern contests

While Mitt Romney’s GOP rivals swept recently through the South appealing to culturally conservative voters, Romney kept a tight focus on the economy during his two-day southern swing -- ignoring his competitors while contrasting his agenda with President Obama’s.

During a town hall in Jackson on Friday, Romney did not explicitly mention the new jobs report showing an uptick of 227,000 jobs in February. But he mocked the Obama campaign’s new film “The Road We’ve Traveled,” a documentary-style ad that will be released by the campaign on March 15.

Alluding to comments by the film’s director Davis Guggenheim to CNN’s Piers Morgan that he had not found fault with Obama, Romney said he should have talked “to the 24 million Americans that are out of work or underemployed in this country,” the soldiers returning from Afghanistan “that can’t find work,” or “the folks that are having a hard time filling up their car because of the price of gasoline.”

“I’ve got a long list of people for that producer to talk to and I’ll tell you, if someone’s looking for things that the president has done wrong, it’s a long, long, long list,” Romney told voters at the Mississippi Farmers Market.

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Romney’s chief competitor, Rick Santorum, joined the former Massachusetts governor in shrugging off the new unemployment report. “Three and half years of 8-plus percent unemployment, I mean, that’s not a good position for anybody to be,” Santorum told CNN’s John King Friday afternoon, “and this is a recovery that has been anemic by any standard.”

President Obama, by contrast, said the jobs report had showed that “the economy is getting stronger” during his visit to a Virginia jet engine manufacturing plant Friday. “The key now, our job now, is to keep this economic engine churning,” Obama said during a speech outlining his administration’s manufacturing initiatives.

Romney’s campaign faces difficult odds in Tuesday’s primaries in Mississippi and Alabama, in part because evangelical Christian voters who dominate the contests in those two states are expected to boost the fortunes of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who recently won in his home state of Georgia and has emphasized his ties to the South.

But Romney hopes to pick up delegates in Mississippi, particularly in Harrison and Jackson counties along the Gulf Coast, as well as the metropolitan Jackson area, Madison and Rankin counties, and DeSoto County, where many suburban voters have been exposed to the political advertisements and news coverage in the Memphis, Tennessee, media market.

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“We are the most organized campaign in Mississippi,” said Austin Barbour, one of Romney’s national finance chairmen. “We’re an underdog in Mississippi, but we’re a fighting underdog.”

Barbour said Gingrich will have an advantage because he is viewed as the Southern candidate, but “voters are smart, and they’ve paid attention to the last week or 10 days and they look for the person who is most likely to beat Barack Obama and that’s clearly Gov. Romney, not Newt Gingrich.”

maeve.reston@latimes.com

Original source: Romney focused on Obama, delegates ahead of Southern contests


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