Romney swipes energy issue from Gingrich’s grasp
the nation’s economic and employment woes.
“I look at this campaign right now, and I see a lot of folks talking about lots of things, but what we need to talk about to defeat Barack Obama is getting good jobs and scaling back the size of government — and that’s what I do,” Mr. Romney said in an apparent swipe at Mr. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania who has often touted his socially conservative views on abortion, gay marriage and religion on the campaign trail.
“I keep bringing it back to more jobs, less debt and smaller government. That is what my campaign is about — and that is why I think we are doing well in this state,” Mr. Romney said.
Mr. Santorum, though, showed no signs of backing off on social issues, arguing at campaign stops that the nation cannot afford to ignore problems created by the breakdown of American families. In a conference call with reporters and on the campaign stump, Mr. Santorum made the case that Mr. Romney was for a federal health care mandate before he was against it — making him an unreliable conservative.
“What you have with Gov. Romney is someone who is simply not the genuine article. He’s not someone you can trust on the issue of big government,” Mr. Santorum said in the conference call.
Mr. Santorum spent months arguing that Mr. Romney’s support of a universal health care law in Massachusetts would hurt the party’s chances of capturing the White House in a general election and its effort to repeal the federal health care act that President Obama pushed through Congress and signed into law in 2010.
But he sharpened that line of attack in the run-up to Super Tuesday, the biggest day of the race, with primaries in Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Oklahoma and Tennessee plus caucuses in Idaho, North Dakota and Alaska.
Mr. Santorum focused on Mr. Romney’s comments from a 2009 appearance on NBC’S “Meet the Press,” when he expressed support for the Healthy Americans Act, also known as the Wyden-bennett Act, which failed to pass Congress, but included the same sort of individual mandate that Mr. Romney now assails on the campaign trail.
“He advocated for a government-mandated health insurance benefit, something he has been denying throughout the course of the campaign, and now we have it all on tape,” Mr. Santorum told the crowd here. “It is bad enough to be for a government-mandated health care system, which he clearly was in Massachusetts, and then say, ‘I never recommended it to the president.’ But now we have two or three instances where he clearly did. It is one thing to be for it; it is another thing to not tell the truth.”
The Romney camp countered immediately by saying that Mr. Santorum was “flailing around” in desperation after watching Mr. Romney string together four consecutive victories in recent contests.
“Gov. Romney has been consistent in opposing a federal mandate,” Ryan Williams, a campaign spokesman, told reporters. “He supports a state-by-state approach.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who hasn’t had a victory since South Carolina in January, has basically staked his entire presidential campaign on winning the primary in Georgia, the state he represented in Congress for 20 years and where he sits atop a double-digit lead in the polls.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is trying to earn his first victory of the contest by focusing on the caucuses in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota, where the libertarian icon’s loyal band of supporters could push him over the top.
Mr. Santorum is hoping for strong showings in Oklahoma and Tennessee, where he leads in the polls.
Mr. Romney, meanwhile, hopes to continue the momentum from his wins in Arizona, Michigan, Washington state and Wyoming with additional victories in Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia. In Virginia, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum failed to meet the requirements necessary to get on the ballot.
Most of the political world, though, will be focused in on the sharp-elbowed race in Ohio, where Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum have resumed the Rust Belt battle they started in Michigan, a contest that turned out to be so close that the two Republicans split the state’s 30 delegates down the middle.
The latest polls show Mr. Romney with a slight edge in Ohio, knocking Mr. Santorum out of the top spot that he had held more or less since he swept the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and the nonbinding primary in Missouri last month.
Since then, the Romney campaign and Restore Our Future, the independent super PAC run by former Romney staffers, have filled the airwaves here and elsewhere with advertisements, including negative ads that paint Mr. Santorum as a Washington insider.
In the conference call with reporters, Mr. Santorum couched the race in biblical terms, saying that after being outspent 12-to-1 in the race that it is “probably a little bit of an understatement” to see the political battle as “David versus Goliath.”
“We’re out here fighting for principles and the people of Ohio, in spite of the barrage of negativity from the [Romney] super PAC,” Mr. Santorum said.
Mitt Romney, showing signs of walking away from his nomination rivals in national polls, may be walking off with rival Newt Gingrich’s signature issue: energy.
With rising gas prices increasingly an issue on the campaign trail, Mr. Gingrich has been the most vocal and focused GOP candidate in criticizing President Obama’s policies and relentlessly bringing all recent interviews back to his promise to bring down gasoline prices to $2.50 a gallon from their current average of nearly $4 at the pump.
But it was Mr. Romney who offered an op-ed piece Monday in Ohio’s Columbus Dispatch under the headline, “America can be the world’s next energy superpower,” as polls showed the former Massachusetts governor gaining in a tight race with former Sen. Rick Santorum in Ohio’s GOP primary, a key prize in the Super Tuesday sweepstakes.
“The goal of my energy policy is straightforward: guarantee America the most affordable and reliable supply in the world,” Mr. Romney declares in the op-ed column. “Ohio is seeing firsthand the potential of this approach in the Marcellus Shale. The natural-gas revolution is creating direct jobs in construction and drilling, and producing a resurgence in American manufacturing. In the next couple of years, billions of dollars will be invested in the state in pursuit of these opportunities.”
That’s a “jobs, jobs, jobs” offer from Mr. Romney that he thinks Ohioans will find hard to turn down.
Mr. Gingrich, running far behind in Ohio and hoping to make a Super Tuesday stand in his longtime home state of Georgia, is banking on a belief that the price of gasoline is high on the average GOP primary voter’s list of concerns — despite polls that show the economy is tops in general election concerns among all voters, followed by unemployment, the federal budget deficit and the 2010 health care law.
Mr. Gingrich dismisses arguments that a U.S. president hasn’t the tools or power to affect prices at the pump.
“The president of the United States has enormous capacity to enable the increased production of American oil and American gas,” he said. “By deregulation, by opening up the Gulf, by opening up fields in Alaska, by opening up federal lands,” he told an NPR interviewer recently.
He rarely misses an opportunity to knock President Obama’s energy policy, and especially the decision to block the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
On the eve of Super Tuesday’s 10 state primaries and caucuses, Mr. Romney chose Ohio, a must-win state this fall, to make his Gingrich-like pitch.
While Mr. Gingrich is campaigning in other Super Tuesday states, having largely ceded Ohio, Mr. Romney is borrowing the Gingrich energy message — without the specific promise of any particular gasoline price — and pumping the anti-obama pipeline he wants to run through Ohio.
“President Barack Obama has a different goal: higher prices, lower production and a government-led ‘green’ industry,” Mr. Romney writes in the op-ed. “Ohio is seeing the effects of this approach, as well. The average family’s energy bill has jumped by thousands of dollars during his presidency. Gasolineprice increases, alone, have cost the middle class as much as would doubling the income-tax rate.”
But Mr. Romney, like Mr. Obama, offers a solution funded, at least in part, by the taxpayer: “I will invest in new energy technologies. We must not allow President Obama’s irresponsible and unethical funding of companies such as Solyndra to undermine the Department of Energy’s critical mission of basic research. We can position America to lead on energy in the future without picking winners or stifling the energy sources of today.”
Mr. Gingrich’s campaign has said it will wait until after Super Tuesday to air a 30-second TV spot in Alabama and Mississippi, which will hold primary elections March 13, to promote his $2.50 plan.
Mr. Romney is not trying to appropriate and run with Mr. Gingrich’s message, a Romney aide told The Washington Times.
“This isn’t the first Gov. Romney has talked about energy,” the aide said on the condition of anonymity. “. . . We ran the oped in Ohio because that’s where Gov. Romney has spent most of his time in lead-up to Super Tuesday.”
Mitt Romney takes his message Monday to Youngstown, Ohio. He holds a slight edge in the state over Rick Santorum, according to the latest polls. Voters cast ballots in 10 states on Tuesday.