CRAIG, Colorado - Mitt Romney's campaign bus pulled onto Main Street of a sleepy, coal mining town in northwest Colorado this morning. The candidate used the backdrop to highlight the struggles of Americans and rail the Obama campaign for "trying to find a twig to hang on to" to claim that the economy is improving.
"His campaign these days is trying to find a twig to hang on to, some little excuse they can grab they say look things are getting a little better, aren't they?" said Romney, to a crowd of more than 600 who lined up at dawn to hear the presumptive nominee speak. Many wore hats and t-shirts boasting of the region's coal industry.
"And the answer is yeah, things are getting a little better in a lot of places in this country but it's not thanks to his policies it's in spite of his policies," said Romney. "You see every recession ultimately comes to an end, but you'd expected this deep recession to come back to an aggressive turnaround and it didn't happen. This president's policies made it harder for America to get on its feet again."
The unemployment rate in Moffatt County, which encompasses the 10,000-person Craig, was 8.3 percent in April, just above the national average of 8.1 percent. In March 2010, the unemployment rate was 11.1 percent, a noticeable improvement during the years Obama has been in office.
Romney tweaked President Obama on his energy policies, asking the crowd, "He said he was going to create some 5 million green energy jobs. Have you seen those around here anywhere?"
"No, as a matter of fact he's going after energy," said Romney. "He says he for all of the above when it comes for energy, you heard that. And yet he's made it harder to get coal out of the ground, he's made it harder to get natural gas out of the ground, he's made it harder to get oil out of the ground."
Romney was introduced at the event by Frank Moe, the owner of the Best Western Plus hotel in Craig, where the candidate, members of his staff and the press stayed overnight. Moe reportedly had sent the Romney campaign a video, "The Perfect Storm Over Craig, Colorado," in which he and his wife appeared. It was produced by Energy for America, which is backed by the billionaire Koch brothers.
While Romney did not explicitly say whether he had watched the video, the candidate said he had seen the challenges they face.
"They spoke about the challenges that are being faced by the people here in Craig, and that's something I saw, and I we said we gotta come here and let you know that we care about what's happening in Craig," said Romney. "We care about what's happening in rural America. We care about what's happening in middle America. We wanna bring help to the people who need help today."
"I'm not going to forget Craig, Colorado. I'm not going to forget communities like this across the country that are hurting right now under this president. I'm not going to forget middle class families that are asking themselves why is it that three and a half years after this president got elected we're still in a tough economy like this," Romney continued. "Some of the numbers look like they're getting better, but I know a lot of people are still suffering."
In an e-mailed statement, Lis Smith, a campaign spokeswoman for the Obama reelection campaign, defended the president's energy record.
"Contrary to Romney's dishonest rhetoric in Colorado today, President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy has led to both greater energy production and higher employment in the energy sector," said Smith.
"Contrast that with Mitt Romney's backward-looking energy policy of pushing to keep giving more tax breaks to the big oil and gas companies and eliminate protections against Wall Street speculators manipulating oil prices," said Smith. "Romney's drilling-alone energy policy would be good for the big oil companies, but it wouldn't create jobs, secure America's energy future, or relieve middle class families' pain at the pump."