COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA - Mitt Romney wasted no time today seizing on remarks by President Obama in which the president said "the private sector is doing fine." Romney said the remark will "go down in history" as an "extraordinary miscalculation."
"Is he really that out of touch? I think he's defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people," said Romney, standing in a park in western Iowa.
The presumptive GOP candidate bounded onto the stage and appeared downright gleeful to have an opportunity to recount the president's remarks, which he repeated slowly and deliberately. And he didn't let up: The first three minutes of his speech were dedicated to railing against the president for remarks made during a morning press conference.
"Has there ever been an American president who is so far from reality as to believe in an America where 23 million Americans are out of work or have stopped for work, or can only find part time jobs, and need full time jobs, where the economy grew in the first quarter of the year at only 1.9 percent?" said Romney.
Retrieving a piece of paper from his pocket, Romney said, "Now he said something else pretty interesting the other night in a fundraising speech in Beverly Hills. He said, I keep a little checklist in my desk at the Oval Office. I've got a to-do list, he said."
Waving the paper, Romney continued, laughing. "I got a copy here of his to-do list from his desk. You see, I was able to sneak that out. And there were a few things that are missing. Missing is, Lead a real recovery. Missing is, Reduce the deficit. Missing is, Save Medicare and Social Security. Missing is, Help small business."
Romney, on his second trip to Iowa since the primary, noted the importance of the battleground state, dinging Obama for launching his campaign here in 2008.
"It was a campaign of hope and optimism," said Romney. "It was a campaign of getting America stronger again and cutting back on the deficit. How disappointed the people of Iowa have become over these last 3 ½ years and how committed we are to having real change that gets the American people back to work again and sees rising incomes again."
"He's going to do his very best to see if he can take hope and change and turn it into hope and change the subject," said Romney, playing on Obama's previous campaign slogan. "But I'll tell ya, he's going to try and find any glimmer of hope. He's going to say, by the way, the recession ended, and we've been growing. Well, yeah, all recessions end, and the growth hasn't been as much as it should have and people aren't back to work yet."
In a conference call with reporters earlier today, Obama's campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt was asked specifically about the president's remark, to which he responded by detailing the state of the economy under the Obama administration - "the fact is that businesses have now created more than 4.3 million private sector jobs" - and by giving a nod to the president's jobs plan. "He's got a plan on the table that would create over a million jobs right now, and addresses specific weaknesses in last month's jobs report."
When the reporter asked LaBolt, "But he's happy with private sector growth. He thinks that's fine?" LaBolt responded, "I just answered the question." Later, in a written statement from the Obama campaign following Romney's event, campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith dubbed Romney's speech as "dishonest rhetoric."
"While Mitt Romney would like to ignore that we were shedding more than 750,000 jobs a month when the President took office, the reality is that the economy has added 4.3 million private sector jobs over the last 27 months," said Smith. "But it makes sense that Romney would rather talk down the economy than talk about his own record - as Governor, he drove Massachusetts down to 47th of 50 states in job creation, broke his 'no new taxes' pledge by raising taxes and fees $750 million a year, and left his successor with a $1 billion deficit. Romney Economics didn't work then and it won't work now."