After stepping on his Florida victory with a series of statements that made him seem out of touch with average citizens, Mitt Romney emphasized at a small gathering of supporters in a frigid warehouse here that he is better suited than President Obama to empathize with struggling Americans.
"I'll listen," Romney told a few dozen bundled-up employees of Western Nevada Supply, a building company here. "I will listen. I will listen to business people and to working people and to folks across the country to understand what's going on in their lives."
Earlier, Romney met with a small group of business leaders and officials, including the mayors of Reno and Sparks, and Nevada's lieutenant governor, in a roundtable discussion in a heated area of the building. In that exchange, Romney dismissed the morning's good news from the Labor Department, that the unemployment rate had dropped slightly, to 8.3%, as welcome, but long overdue.
"This recovery has been slower than it should have been; people have been suffering for longer than they should have had to suffer.... We got good news this morning on job creation in January. I hope that continues, we get people back to work. But this president has not helped the process. He's hurt it.
"Sometimes I got the impression that ... you don't think you have a friend in Washington. And I can assure you that if I'm the president, I will see what you do as being a very good thing. A patriotic and good thing, which is employ people and putting them to work."
Romney has worked hard to paint President Obama as a nice young man who is simply in over his head as president. On Monday, he went a step further, telling the supply company employees that the president is clueless about the unemployed.
"The other day the president was at a Google town hall," Romney said. "A woman came on and said her husband, who was an engineer, was out of work and had been out of work for a long time. The president was surprised to hear that. He thought engineers were able to get jobs pretty easily. And he found it interesting. How can you be that detached from what's going on?"
(Last week, during an online town hall sponsored by Google, Obama urged the woman, Jennifer Weddel of Fort Worth, Texas, to send him her husband's resume. "I'd be interested in finding out what's happening there," Obama said, as he understood that high-tech workers like engineers were in high demand in the jobs market.)
"The president," Romney said, "needs to hear what the people of the United States are experiencing and feeling and make sure the policies he's putting in place are right for the people of America. I will listen if I am president."