Romney unveils plan to strengthen middle class during trip to Jeffco

The Colorado Statesman

In his first campaign speech since returning from overseas, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney unveiled his plans to strengthen the middle class and blasted President Barack Obama for what he said was a failed record on key economic measures before a packed hall at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden on Thursday.

“I can’t wait to get to Washington,” an exuberant Romney said. “I’m so excited about getting America working again.”

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney prepares to discuss what he called a “presidential accountability scorecard,” which he said shows President Barack Obama failing on all counts, at a rally on Aug. 2 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Members of the crowd — estimated at 1,000 by event organizers, plus many hundreds more who filled a lawn outside — were handed copies of what the Romney campaign called a “presidential accountability scorecard,” which compared Obama’s national record with Romney’s accomplishments as Massachusetts governor on measures including jobs, home prices and income.

Congressional candidate Joe Coors and state Reps. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, are delighted by the crowd’s antics at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds as a packed house awaits the arrival of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“When the president was here as a candidate accepting the nomination four years ago, he laid out the report card in which he hoped to be judged,” Romney said, and then added, “All measures he laid out are measures that have gone in the wrong direction.”

A crowd estimated at 1,000 waits inside the Exhibition Hall at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to speak on Aug. 2 in Golden.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Looking ahead, Romney outlined a five-point plan he said would put the country on the right track. His proposals included making North America energy independent within eight years, championing small businesses, establishing a trade policy “that works for America,” giving every American the skills to succeed, and cutting the deficit. To achieve the latter goal, he proposed an immediate 5-percent cut in “non-security” discretionary spending and a cap on federal spending to keep it below 20 percent of the economy.

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez introduces presidential candidate Mitt Romney to a packed hall on Aug. 2 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“This is not just hope,” Romney said. “This is a path of more jobs and more take-home pay and a brighter future for you and for your kids.”

An overflow crowd estimated at several hundred applauds after presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses them briefly before delivering a speech about his plans to strengthen the middle class.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Romney opened his remarks with a shout-out to Colorado swimmer and Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin, and then said he had recently met with “another Colorado girl with a big heart,” 17-year-old McKayla Hicks, a survivor of last month’s mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater.

“Maybe by applause,” Romney said to the crowd, “we show how united we are with the tragedy of those people, how much we love them, how much we care for them.”

Jefferson County Commissioner John Odom introduces Judy Merkel, president of the Mountain Republican Women’s Club, ahead of an appearance by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

The crowd applauded loudest and longest, however, when Romney announced, “We’ve got to get rid of Obamacare.”

Outside the rally, a small group of senior citizens waved “Mitts off my Medicare” signs at passing cars, aimed at Romney’s support for the Ryan Budget, which one protester said would “end Medicare as we know it.” Nearby, protesters affiliated with Colorado Ceasefire and the nonpartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns also held signs demanding that the candidate produce a plan to reduce gun violence.

State Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster, cracks up after a section of the crowd gives him a rousing ovation on Aug. 2, where supporters gathered to hear presidential candidate Mitt Romney speak.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Inside the fairgrounds, a half dozen protesters held signs aimed at Romney’s position on a federal tax credit for wind energy, which is set to expire later this year. “We Work in Wind,” read one sign. “Don’t Kill Wind Jobs,” read another.

Overhead, an airplane commissioned by the MoveOn.org group displayed a banner reading “Welcome back, Mitt. Now release those returns,” a jab a Romney over demands he release more than the two years of income tax returns he has said are all he plans to make public.

Introducing Romney, former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez said it was time America had a president who was prepared to tackle the country’s problems.

“We’ve tried hiring a guy who’s never been there, never done that, didn’t have any experience for the job, and I think we found out how it turned out,” he said. “How about this time, we give the job to someone who’s got the experience and the background?”

Jefferson County Commissioner John Odom said he was proud to appear on the same ballot with Romney this fall. The election, he said, would be the biggest election of his 8-year-old son’s life. “We cannot afford four more years of President Obama,” he said as the crowd erupted in cheers. Proclaiming that Romney would make the government “smaller, simpler, smarter,” he summarized: “Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that Mitt Romney can restore the American Dream.”

Odom also trumpeted the importance of his home county, considered one of the three key swing counties in the battleground state, along with Arapahoe and Larimer counties.

“We here in Jefferson County stand at Ground Zero,” he said, adding that, “We cannot, we will not underestimate the importance of a Romney victory here in Colorado.”

Jefferson County has some 396,000 registered voters. Republicans claim roughly 36 percent of the active voters, unaffiliated voters account for 32 percent and Democrats have 31 percent. Obama won the county with 55 percent of the vote in 2008.

State Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, said she was excited to hear Romney’s jobs proposals.

“We need to put the country back to work, and we need to take care of the economy, and everything will fall in place,” she said. Marveling at the size of the crowd, she added, “I don’t see Colorado looking very Purple right now, it’s looking pretty Red.”

A few miles from the rally, leading Democrats gathered in a Lakewood back yard to attack Romney’s economic plan.

“We keep hearing Mitt Romney and other Republicans’ nostalgia for the days of trickle-down economics, when everything was rosy and everyone was doing well,” said state Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, who was joined by the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis. “But here’s the thing about that: it never actually happened. We know tax cuts weighted toward the wealthiest don’t help the middle class, but I guess Mitt Romney needs reminding.”

It was Romney’s first appearance in the Denver metro area since the night of Colorado’s GOP precinct caucuses in early February, when he finished second behind Rick Santorum. Since then, Romney has made campaign stops in Fort Lupton, Craig and Grand Junction, attended fundraisers in Aspen, and made an unannounced visit at a Colorado Springs food bank last month in the wake of a devastating wildfire that tore into the city.

At press time, Romney was headed to the Western Slope town of Basalt, where he planned to appear along with several prominent Republican governors, including Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, before finishing the day at a fundraiser in Aspen.

The Obama campaign announced that the President would campaign in the state next week, including stops in Denver and Grand Junction on Aug. 8 and Colorado Springs and Pueblo on Aug. 9.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com