MANCHESTER, N.H., — At a campaign stop in the Granite State today, former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney questioned whether President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq entirely by the end of the year was “due to politics or ineptitude.”
“The president indicated and his administration indicated over the summer and fall that they were working to have a status of forces agreement that would keep troops in place either 20,000 down to maybe 3,000 over some extended period to make sure there was an effective transition to the Iraqi military,” said Romney. “They indicated they were working on that effort and they either failed to do it by virtue of ineptitude or they decided it wasn’t that important politically or otherwise.”
Romney said that the commanders on the ground would be the only ones who would be able to explain what he dubbed a “sudden change of policy” and wondered out loud whether “the president’s administration was out negotiated by the Iraqi leaders.”
But when asked what he would have done differently, Romney avoided specifics, saying only that he believes in “asking the commanders on the ground and understand from them what the timetable is from them.”
Romney also leap to defend Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who was recently accused of embellishing the details of his family’s history.
“I have the highest respect for Marco Rubio I think his family’s history having coming to this country speaks for itself,” said Romney.
Rubio’s name has been floated as a potential running mate for the GOP nominee, and is known to have a good relationship with Romney.
“This is a family who came with nothing and Marco Rubio and his family deserve the highest praise and recognition,” added Romney. “I think the world of Marco Rubio and support him entirely and think the effort to try to smear him was unfortunate and bogus.”
Having avoided mentioning any of his GOP rivals by name during brief remarks delivered to the volunteers making calls for his campaign, Romney was asked by a member of the press if he believes Texas Gov. Rick Perry has the “intelligence” to be president.
“I do,” quipped Romney. “I believe every single person on the stage in that last debate would do a better job than President Obama. If Rick Perry were the nominee I’d be voting for him. I, of course believe he’s qualified, as are the other people on the stage.”
Romney also took to the phones himself during the campaign stop, going as far as soliciting advice from the voters on the other end of the line, asking “How do you think I’m doing,” before adding, “Have a great Saturday!”
But the event wasn’t without a hiccup – Romney misdialed and ended up on the phone with the wrong person.
When he realized that the person he had called was not, in fact, the sheriff he thought he had reached, Romney said,
“Uh…it’s the wrong number…Well, have you ever heard of Mitt Romney? Well that’s me, I’m on the phone, How are you doing today?”