GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Mitt Romney brought his presidential campaign to the West Slope of Colorado on Tuesday, looking to energize his base here in a heavily Republican part of the state and highlight the continuing struggle to bring back jobs in a region where unemployment is higher than other parts of the nation.
In a question-and-answer session with voters at Central High School, the unofficial Republican nominee took aim at President Obama’s tax plans — stating that his rival’s proposal to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for those making up to $250,000 — but not upper-income Americans — would harm “job creators.” The tax cuts are due to expire at the end of the year.
The former Massachusetts governor called the president’s plan to extend tax cuts only for some Americans “another kick in the gut” after last week’s middling jobs report. Obama’s plan, he said, was “the sort of thing only an extreme liberal can come up with.”
“When people in Washington say they’re lowering taxes, hold on to your wallet,” Romney said before an enthusiastic audience that formed a theater-in-the-round for the candidate inside the high school gym. “For job creators and small businesses, he announced a massive tax increase,” Romney said, drawing boos from the audience.
“So, at the very time [that] the American people are seeing fewer jobs created than we need, the president announces he’s going to make it harder for jobs to be created. I just don’t think this president understands how our economy works. Liberals have an entirely different view about what makes America the economic powerhouse it is.”
Romney also went on a counterattack on Democratic efforts to suggest that he outsourced jobs while heading the private equity firm Bain Capital. He noted that the independent website factcheck.org found no evidence to support those claims.
“This president has been outsourcing a good deal of American jobs himself by putting money into energy companies, solar and wind energy companies that end up making their products outside the United States,” he said. “If there is an outsourcer in chief, it’s the president of the United States, not the guy who’s running to replace him.”
Several times during the event, Romney praised former Democratic president Bill Clinton, who he noted called himself “a new Democrat.”
Clinton, Romney said, “believed in small government, reformed welfare as we knew it” and tried “to get the economy going with trade and other positions, lower taxes.”
“Look, new Democrats have done some good things; a lot of Republicans have done some good things,” he continued. “But this old style liberalism of bigger and bigger government and bigger and bigger taxes has got to end, and we will end it in November."
Most of Romney’s questioners were supportive, with the exception of one young man who challenged him by asking why Romney’s views on liberty did not extend to women and gays. (Romney opposes abortion and gay marriage.)
One man also suggested that he offer a more vigorous defense of his efforts to extend healthcare to all residents of Massachusetts, since he noted that the state’s voters generally supported the plan.
“Good point, I'll keep it in mind," Romney told him.