MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – Mitt Romney brushed aside criticism from his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination Saturday night and accused President Obama of being too ignorant and naïve about the U.S. economy to lead it out of recession. “I just don’t think he’s equipped for what’s happening,” the former Massachusetts governor said.
Romney addressed a gathering of GOP activists at this island resort several hours after Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has assumed Romney’s former role as a fragile front-runner for the GOP nomination, suggested in a speech to the same crowd that Romney was a slick campaigner who “blurs lines” between Romney’s position’s and Obama’s.
A Michigan native, Romney used his keynote address to look beyond the nomination fight and focus his venom on Obama. Emboldened by Perry’s poor debate performances and a weak third-place finish in a Florida straw poll Saturday, Romney advisers privately expressed renewed confidence in their strategy to keep the focus on the economy and the president. One Romney aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, overstated Romney’s strength but underscored the team’s cockiness when he said, “It’s over. Perry is toast.”
On stage, Romney looked beyond his chief Republican rival.
“You have people in Washington who don’t understand America,” Romney said.
If there was any doubt about whom Romney meant, he reminded the crowd that Obama once said he would be a one-term president if he couldn’t turn the economy around. “I’m here,” Romney said, “to collect on that.”
“The problem is he just doesn’t understand how the economy really works, how the country really works,” Romney said of the president.
Romney grew up in a suburb of Detroit – and the Michigan governor’s mansion, where his father, George Romney, once served. He charmed the crowd with inside references to Michigan (“I like people who, when you ask them where you’re from, they hold up their hand”) and an endearing moment with his wife, Ann. As the Romneys stood side-by-side during Mrs. Romney’s brief remarks, members of the audience began tapping their wine glasses with silverware – a wedding tradition that calls for a kiss from the bride and groom.
Romney at first looked puzzled then said, “Oh!” – and gave his wife a quick kiss.