NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — With former rival Tim Pawlenty at his side, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered remarks in South Carolina aimed at consolidating his support in anti-union Southern states.
Before joining other GOP contenders in Tampa for a debate on Monday night, Romney swooped into this key primary state to tour a Boeing facility after landing a valuable endorsement in the morning from Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota who dropped out of the contest for the GOP nomination last month. Romney quickly named Pawlenty a national co-chairman of his campaign.
In remarks aimed at slowing the momentum of the current front-runner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Pawlenty told the crowd of 100 that gathered at City Hall: “The next president of this country is going to have to lead the country in a historic way.... Mitt Romney alone has the unmatched ability and skills to be that historic leader, and I am 100 percent confident that he will lead this country to a brighter economic future, starting with making sure the president understands the important role, the leadership role, that the private sector plays in providing quality of life opportunities for people all across this country."
After touring the Boeing plant, Romney pointedly took sides in a dispute over the aerospace giant’s decision to move some of its operations from Washington state to a non-union factory in South Carolina. The National Labor Relations Board is investigating.
When Congress takes up President Obama’s new jobs bill, Romney said, the Republican-controlled House should include a prohibition on the labor board, which he said is packed with Democratic “labor stooges,” from interfering with the Boeing transfer. The president, Romney said, engaged in “destructive” policies when he supported the union-backed card-check bill, making it easier for unions to organize a workplace, and by forcing union workers into government jobs during the federal bailout of the auto industry. Obama, he said, was guilty of “egregious examples of political payback, where the president is able to pay back unions for the hundreds of millions they put into his campaign at the expense of American workers, American jobs, and the people of South Carolina.” Romney also promised to appoint to the NLRB “people who are unbiased and experienced, and respect the rule of law.”
As he has previously, Romney stressed his experience creating jobs as a businessman and employed his new favorite analogy of a Democratic president doing an inept job in a technology-driven world. “We all now have smartphones, and President Obama is still trying to shove quarters into pay phones and thinking that there will be someone on the other end,” he said, although the former Massachusetts governor struggled a bit with technology himself at the podium. He forgot to bring his smartphone, which he likes to use as a prop while trashing Obama. His son, Tagg Romney, sitting in the front row, fetched it for him.
Meeting with reporters after the speech, Pawlenty said of Romney, “I want to say that I’m also really proud of Mitt’s values. I’ve seen him and observed him up close over the years as just an incredible loving and committed spouse, loving and committed father, and loving and committed grandparent.”