Romney touts jobs as heart of his plan
TAMPA, Fla. (MarketWatch) -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pledged to help create millions of jobs and restore a united America in the most important speech of his political career on Thursday night, as he accepted the Republican nomination for president of the United States.
Romney charged President Barack Obama with leaving a legacy of disappointment and division, and the Republican candidate highlighted his five-point plan for helping the economy.
"What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs," Romney told assembled delegates from around the country and a prime-time national TV audience.
Romney used his speech to declare open season on Barack Obama's policies as the two opponents vie for middle-class voters and race toward the November election.
"I am running for president to help create a better future," Romney said. "A future where everyone who wants a job can find a job. Where no senior fears for the security of their retirement. An America where every parent knows that their child will get an education that leads them to a good job and a bright horizon."
"President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans, and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family," Romney said.
For the 65-year-old Romney, the stakes for Thursday night's speech couldn't have been higher. He is even with Obama in polls, and looking at hyper-competitive races in swing states that will decide the election.
Romney didn't unveil new proposals on the economy or national security. Instead, the former Bain Capital chief executive will drove home his program to create 12 million new jobs -- a target critics say is unrealistic.
Romney's plan involves U.S. energy independence by 2020; strengthening education; forging new trade agreements with foreign countries; cutting the deficit and working toward a balanced budget; and helping small businesses by cutting taxes and repealing Obama's health-care law.
Obama's campaign has pushed back with a fury against Romney's plan, charging the onetime governor with favoring the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and harboring a plan to end Medicare as it's known today. Romney says his health-care plan will rein in rising costs.
Democrats are also pushing back against a charge by Romney's running mate Paul Ryan that Obama's health-care law cuts $716 billion from the Medicare program.
"It's simply not true. It's an outright lie," Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in Tampa, according to Politico.
Democrats will renominate Obama as president at their convention next week in Charlotte, N.C. They will seek to turn the conversation back to Obama's first-term accomplishments including the rescue of U.S. automakers and the passage of the president's sweeping health-care plan.
Romney is embracing his private-equity career -- which Democrats have pilloried -- with a new web site devoted to his days at Bain Capital. He is banking on his image as a turnaround artist to seal the deal with anxious voters concerned about above-8% unemployment and the slow recovery.
Romney was occasionally interrupted by chants of "USA! USA!" during his speech, which also focused on his life and family as well as his Mormon faith.
Romney took the stage on the same day that the S&P 500 index (SPX) closed below 1,400 for the first time in four weeks. Stocks fell on concerns about the next meeting of the European Central Bank and predictions that the Federal Reserve's Jackson Hole, Wyo., gathering would be a nonevent. See Market Snapshot.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is due to speak in Jackson Hole on Friday. Romney has said he would replace Bernanke if elected president.
Romney was introduced by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising Republican star chosen to sharpen the party's appeal to Hispanic voters. Rubio said that Republicans' problem with Obama isn't that he is a bad person.
"Our problem is that he's a bad president," Rubio said.
Ryan, a 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman, spoke on Wednesday night.
Ryan has pumped up some Republicans more than Romney has. Interviewed inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where Romney will speak, commercial floor covering contractor Mary Muntean called Romney her "anybody-but-Obama candidate.
"Romney is a stuffed shirt. Ryan's not," she told MarketWatch.
Ralph Myers, an attorney from Arkansas, said he hoped Romney would speak as well as former President Bill Clinton.
"If he does, he can connect with the people. The main thing he has to do is connect with people on the fringe, the female vote, Latinos. Do I think he will win? I'd put $50 on him," he said.
Actor-director Clint Eastwood spoke just after 10 p.m., talking to an imaginary Obama in a chair next to him on stage. In a rambling speech, Eastwood said it may be time "for somebody else to come along and solve the problem."
He recounted Obama's election night in 2008, saying "Everybody was crying, Oprah was crying. I was crying." He said the number of unemployed is something to cry about.
And about Obama, he said: "When somebody does not do the job, we've got to let them go."
Romney agreed, saying: "This president can't tell us that you're better off today than when he took office."