By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
JANESVILLE — As the presidential campaign heads into the summer months, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney campaigned in 90-degree heat in Janesville on Monday, flanked by two of the Republican Party’s rising stars.
The former Massachusetts governor turned up the heat on rival President Barack Obama, campaigning in a city that remains a Democratic Party stronghold and a bastion for organized labor.
Nearly 1,000 people gathered inside and outside Monterey Mills, a fabric manufacturing company, to welcome Romney to Wisconsin. Janesville was one of several Midwestern stops Romney expected to make as part of his ‘Every Town Counts’ bus tour.
The candidate got a boost from Gov. Scott Walker, fresh from his overwhelming victory over his Democratic challenger in Wisconsin’s unprecedented gubernatorial recall election. Romney also was joined by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a Janesville Republican, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Republican National Committee chairman and Wisconsin native Reince Priebus.
“We were able to show here in Wisconsin that you can turn things around. We’ve turned things around in Wisconsin. It’s time to elect a leader who can turn things around for America,” Walker said.
And while the national dialogue turned to immigration policy following President Obama’s order to end the deportation of some young undocumented immigrants,Romney kept his focus on jobs and the economy.
“These are challenging times in America. And because of (Obama’s) failed record, his campaign is having a hard time deciding what to talk about,” Romney told the Janesville crowd. “They’d like to talk about the economy and his record, but they know the last time his campaign slogan was ‘hope and change.’
“This time they’re going with ‘we hope to change the subject.’ But we’re not going to let him do that. We’re going to talk about the economy and jobs and getting Americans back to work,” Romney said, garnering laughter and applause, the crowd apparently pleased with a political line the GOP challenger has pushed on his campaign trip.
Romney spent most of his speech ripping into Obama’s economic policies and highlighting some reforms he’d make.
“If your priority is jobs, you got to get rid of Obamacare. I will,” Romney said, citing a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey that found three-fourths of respondents said the president’s cornerstone health-care law made it less likely they would hire people.
Romney played to conservative crowd, firing off a litany of egalitarian questions:
- Is it fair to the next generation to increase debt and deficits?
- Is it fair “when the president takes your tax money and uses it to invest or to guarantee loans for business” like Solyndra, the solar cell manufacturer that went bankrupt despite government backing? Is it fair to take charter school scholarships from children in Washington D.C.?
- Is it fair to returning soldiers who wind up in unemployment lines?
“If there’s ever been a president who’s not been able to provide to the American people a fair shot it’s been this president and that’s why we’re going to replace him with someone who will go to work and get us working again,” Romney said.
Walker has called on Romney to not just make the election a referendum on Obama, but to promote policy reform initiatives that will resonate with voters — as seems to be the case under Walker’s leadership in Wisconsin.
“I would take advantage of our energy resources — our coal, our gas. If I have to build it myself I’m going to get that pipeline from Canada,” he said in reference to the proposed $7-billion Keystone XL oil pipeline blocked by the Obama administration.
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee, who cleared out his field of Republican challengers weeks ago, trained his stump speech on one of the bigger anxieties facing American voters — escalating U.S. debt and the lessons learned from struggling European nations.
“The path we’re on — spending a trillion dollars more every year than we take in — is leading us to Greece. I want to make sure no one ever worries about that, that they understand the dollar will be worth something down the road, and we will have a strong and stable foundation fiscally. So to do that, I’m going to finally get America on track to have a balanced budget,” he pledged.
The Obama campaign did not immediately respond to Wisconsin Reporter’s multiple requests for comment.
Romney will have his work cut out for him. The majority of Wisconsin voters haven’t cast ballots for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984. In 2008, Obama carried Rock County, of which Janesville is the county seat, by nearly a 2-1 margin.
Not much has changed since. In 2010, Rock County voters overwhelmingly supported Walker’s Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 57 percent to 42 percent, and they did so again in this month’s recall election, giving Barrett 56 percent of the vote.
But Wisconsin voters overall overwhelmingly supported Walker, who won the recall contest by 7 percentage points.
Romney sounded confident in his chances in the Badger State, where a recent Rasmussen poll show him up by 3 percentage points, and others show him within striking distance. The Obama camp, too, has put Wisconsin in the toss up category.
“I think President Obama had just put this in his column. He just assumed from the very beginning Wisconsin was going to be his. But you know what? We’re going to win Wisconsin,” Romney predicted.