The nation is in dire need of new economic leadership, Mitt Romney told a room full of supporters Friday in Salt Lake City, and said that as president he could put the country back to work.
“It’s time for a president who understands what’s happening with the American people,” Romney said during a 20-minute speech to about 150 invited guests attending a fundraiser at the Grand America Hotel.
Jabbing at President Barack Obama for his comment earlier in the day that the “private sector is doing fine,” the presumptive Republican nominee said, “Oh really. Go talk to those 23 million people [out of work]. Go talk to those people who have seen their homes vanish underneath their feet. Talk to the people who have seen their incomes decline and their expenses go up. Talk to seniors.”
Turning from what he said is the failure of the Obama administration, the former Massachusetts governor painted prospects for a brighter future using his to-do list that begins with “jobs, jobs and jobs.”
“If I’m president of the United States we’re not going to have trillion-dollar deficits. I will get us on track to finally have a balanced budget,” according to a press pool report of the speech.
Supporters attending the fundraiser agreed that Romney has the know-how to fix the laboring economy.
“He’s the one who needs to be president,” said Wayne Webster. “We don’t have a president who has ever had to run a business or meet a payroll.”
And Merle Maier said she trusts Romney to solve the nation’s economic woes.
“Frankly, it’s so refreshing to have someone you can have confidence in,” she said.
About two dozen Democrats clustered across the street were sounding a very different message, drawing attention to Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts, holding signs that said “Romney Economics: It didn’t work then, it won’t work now.”
Wayne Holland, a former Democratic Party Chairman working for the Obama campaign, said that Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation during Romney’s tenure as governor.
“[Romney] has a failed record in Massachusetts, has a failed record at Bain Capital, particularly when it comes to jobs,” Holland said. “We want that record out there and we’re here to help Mitt Romney tell the whole story.”
The Grand America events consisted of a VIP reception for those who gave more than $10,000 to the campaign, followed by a general reception for donors of $2,500. Afterward, the dinner at the Davis County home of Scott Keller, a real estate investor, for Utah supporters who raised more than $50,000.
Romney will be back in Utah in two weeks, with his most generous and prominent financial backers from across the country flying in for an exclusive Deer Valley retreat — the First National Romney Victory Leadership Retreat. Romney previously owned a home in Deer Valley, a 9,500-square-foot, wood-beamed ski villa, but sold the property for several million dollars in 2009.
Earlier in the day, Romney appeared briefly with Sen. Orrin Hatch, making a brief show of support for the senator’s re-election.
Shortly before 2:30 p.m., two gray SUVs pulled onto the tarmac at the Salt Lake City International Airport’s Tac Air Terminal, the two men exited one SUV, walked about 50 yards and then got back into the same SUV before their caravan — the two gray SUVs, a white SUV and two vans — drove off, escorted by two Utah Highway Patrol cruisers.
Romney and Hatch did not appear to make any statements during their photo op for news photographers and reporters but Romney did wave to a group of supporters that included Lorraine Cragun of Eden.
“I’ve been impressed with Governor Romney since the Olympics,” said Cragun. “He has to win, in my opinion. It’s too important because the economy is so horrible and the country is going in the wrong direction.”
Romney has already endorsed Hatch’s re-election, recording a radio ad for the senator leading up to the state GOP convention, but the Hatch campaign said it is happy to have Romney in Utah, backing Hatch.
At Friday night’s fundraiser, Romney praised Hatch for supporting him in “good times and not-so-good times,” calling him a fighter for conserviatve principles. He said he hoped Hatch wins re-election “and he and I look forward to working together in Washington, D.C., to get this country back on track.”
The campaign of Hatch’s primary opponent, former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, said it is disappointing that Hatch has the time to mug for cameras alongside Romney, but refuses to meet with voters or debate Liljenquist.
“It’s disingenuous for him to say ‘I don’t have time to talk to the voters of Utah but I do have time to do photo ops with Mitt Romney,’” said Holly Richardson, Liljenquist’s campaign chairman.
According to the most recent campaign filings, Romney had raised $3.6 million in the state, compared to $505,000 raised by President Barack Obama. But Obama is well ahead of Romney in national fundraising, bringing in $217 million to date, compared to $97 million for Romney.
However, the Romney campaign and Republican Party outraised the Obama campaign and Democratic for the month of May, $76 million to $60 million, the first time the Romney campaign has raised more than Obama’s in a month.
Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright said it will take a huge amount of money to compete with the Obama campaign, and it is important for Utahns support Romney.
“I think it’s really exciting that the presidential nominee on the Republican side has such strong ties to Utah, and I think it’s time for all Republicans … to step up and open their wallets and end the Obama era in America, because it’s too damaging to our country,” Wright said.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said he’s happy to have Romney back in the state.
“We hope he spends a lot of time in retirement here after this election,” he said. “It’s ironic that Governor Romney is so popular in Utah, because he really is so out of touch with working Utahns.”