PEORIA, Ill. — Energy and the economy are the basis of Mitt Romney's stump speeches, but on Monday some Bradley University students decided to question him — at times pointedly — on social issues.
The first woman to ask the GOP presidential front-runner a question at a rally here on the eve of Tuesday’s Illinois primary remarked that she knew he was in favor of the “pursuit of happiness” but added, “You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”
That led Romney to rebuke his inquisitor. “If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for, vote for the other guy—that’s what he’s all about, OK? That’s not, that’s not what I’m about,” he said.
Without specifically addressing birth control, he said that promising handouts to voters was not in keeping with his philosophy. "We get elected that way in many cases, politicians do; that’s not something I subscribe to," he said.
Another questioner brought up Romney’s plan to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. She asked Romney where he might suggest “millions of women go” without the organization offering reproductive and sexual health care.
“Well, they can go wherever they’d like to go,” Romney told her. “This is a free society. But here’s what I’d say, which is the federal government should not tax these people to pay for Planned Parenthood.… The idea of the federal government funding Planned Parenthood, I’m going to say no, we’re going to stop that.”
The event was hosted by Bradley's College Republican group, and Romney took the opportunity to repeat that he doesn’t understand how any young voters can cast their ballots for Democrats when, he said, that party's policies contributing to the burgeoning debt would cause young people to feel the most pain.
“You not only have college loans to pay back, you have loans to my generation to pay back,” he said. “And your prospects for finding a business that grows and thrives, burdened with all those taxes to pay back my debts, my generation’s debts, those chances get slimmer and slimmer."
The Romney campaign is working to attract support from younger voters. A recent Fox News poll showed him trailing President Obama in a head-to-head matchup among voters under 35.