JACKSON, Miss. - With his eye on the contest in November, Mitt Romney steered clear of mentioning his Republican rivals Friday morning and honed in on President Obama, calling the 17-minute documentary to be released by Obama's campaign next week an "infomercial" that fails to chronicle any of the president's mistakes.
"I got off a phone call on the way here. I guess there is a new infomercial out. The president's people put together a 17-minute infomercial. They're calling it a documentary. I don't think so. It's an infomercial. And the person who produced it, he said, Boy, it was really hard putting this together … because I couldn't find any faults with the president," said Romney at a town hall at the Mississippi Farmer's Market.
During his second event of a two-day swing through Mississippi and Alabama, Romney provided a tick-tock of where he believes President Obama has erred, from his handling of the economy to stifling oil production off the Gulf Coast.
"Well, I have some suggestions for the president and for the producer. First of all, talk to the 24 million Americans who are out of work or underemployed in this country. And by the way, you can talk to some of the young ones … that got hit with 15 and a half trillion dollars in debt. This president has put in place almost as much public debt as all the prior presidents combined," said Romney.
"You could also pick up the phone and talk to the folks that work in the Gulf. We were in Pascagoula yesterday and we saw behind us a couple of large drilling rigs not being used right now. The use of drilling rigs in the Gulf is the lowest of any place in the world. Lowest utilization. That's because of this president and the moratorium he put in place that's illegal," said Romney.
Romney later expanded on the ways that regulations are curtailing not only oil production, but also job creation in coastal states like Mississippi.
"One of the reasons those drilling rigs that I saw in Pascagoula are sitting there is because regulators are trying to go over every square inch," said Romney. "You need some regulation but it needs to be updated and modernized and streamlined. What they've done in Washington is choke us."
After his event, Romney declined to answer reporters' questions about the Friday's jobs report.
Romney's town hall before a crowd of several hundred people did not elicit any questions about his faith or stance on social issues, topics some believe might trouble him in the South, but instead focused on issues like the debt, Social Security and Iran.
A member of the audience asked Romney if he were to become president, if he would be apologizing for America, a question at which the crowd erupted in applause.
"It's not often the question gets the applause," said Romney, later continuing, "We may make mistakes as a nation from time to time and step on others' toes, and we'll say we're sorry for that, but apologizing for America is something I will never, ever do."
When an older gentleman asked Romney what kind of person he would select as a vice presidential candidate, Romney joked back, "Are you available?"
Toward the end of his question-and-answer session, while he answered a query about the administrative costs of healthcare, Romney saw an unidentified critter scurry across the stage and quickly chased after it with his foot.
"Oh, look at that, look at that little guy, there. Got him," said Romney as he squashed the bug with his shoe. "It wasn't really a cockroach. I promise. We are in the agriculture building after all right?"