Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney took a break from South Carolina on Thursday to campaign and raise money in Florida.
Before a crowd of about 400 at a noontime rally, he delivered a 15-minute stump speech – devoid of anything he hasn’t said before.
But the crowd was enthusiastic, frequently interrupting the candidate with applause as he outlined his ideas and criticized President Obama.
“This president’s run out of ideas. And he’s running out of excuses. And in 2012, you know, he’s run out of time,” he said.
Most of his speech was devoted to economics, and his pledge to turn around the nation’s economy. He slashed at Obama for failing to improve the economy.
“This president has failed the American people,” Romney said, pledging “to get America working again.”
He said he’d balance the federal budget, calling it immoral to spend more than the country takes in.
Some of the loudest cheers came when Romney said the first program he’d get rid of as president would be the healthcare overhaul law Republicans refer to as Obamacare.
He said he’d cut smaller programs too, including arts and humanities funding. He said he’s a fan of public television but programs like “Sesame Street” would have to survive with advertising. “I’m afraid Big Bird is going to have to get used to Kellogg’s Corn Flakes,” he said.
He also pledged to strengthen the nation’s military, to support allies such as Israel, and to deal with the threat from Iran possessing a nuclear weapon, which he called “the greatest threat that we face globally over the next decade.”
The crowd booed when Romney said Obama wanted to remake America into a “European welfare state.”
Romney said he viewed the election as a contest “about the soul of America; what kind of nation we’re going to be.” He quoted from the Declaration of Independence and recited lines from “America The Beautiful.”
People who turned out for the rally at the Palm Beach County Convention Center said they had seen a winner.
“I thought he was on fire,” said Terence Rosenthal, a tennis pro from Weston.
Jessica Rioux of Boca Raton said she lived in Massachusetts when Romney was that state’s governor and that she had been a fan for years.
“He’s charismatic. He’s right on target. I could go on and on for months,” Rioux said. “I think he embodies what we believe in, where our president should take us.”
Retiree Dixie McKay of Port St. Lucie said it was the first time she’d ever been to a political event.
“He was fabulous. He makes the most sense. He’s got the most experience. He cares about the country,” she said. “What’s not to like?”
Florida’s chief financial officer, Jeff Atwater, urged people like McKay to vote for Romney on Thursday afternoon by casting absentee ballots. “Don’t wait. Don’t wait.”
Romney was scheduled to stay in South Florida on Thursday for a fundraiser at the Palm Beach home of Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins.
Before leaving the public event, Romney stayed in the convention center ballroom for about 15 minutes to oblige many in the crowd who clamored to shake his hand and snap pictures.