During the speech at neon sign manufacturer Colite International, Romney focused on the policies of President Obama. He criticized the President and portrayed himself as the pro-business candidate.
“The things we make per-person in America exceeds that of any other country in the world,” Romney said, “Our problem is not that the private sector isn’t productive enough. The problem is that the government sector is too heavy and too burdensome and is keeping the private sector from growing and thriving like it should.”
AUDIO: Complete speech (13:36)
Romney’s speech before the crowd of roughly 150 supporters lasted for about 13 minutes. He did not offer any new proposals or talk to the media afterwards.
He did focus on reducing regulations, saying they were keeping the economy back. He blamed the healthcare reform law, a cap-and-trade proposal, the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, and pro-union actions for companies being reluctant to hire.
The former Massachusetts governor reiterated that he would repeal the healthcare reform law and would support giving states more control over Medicaid. He also pledged to reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent “through attrition,” meaning not replacing employees who retire or leave government agencies.
Romney’s wife Ann was with him on the tour. She also spoke briefly, saying she believed it was important to keep the country strong. “That’s why, even though last time I told Mitt I’d never do this again, here we are,” Mrs. Romney told the crowd. “I do remind him that I said that after each pregnancy (and) I’ve got five kids.”
One person in the audience wearing an “Occupy Columbia” t-shirt was escorted out of the plant during the speech, although there were otherwise no disruptions. Several Occupy protesters interrupted a speech by fellow Republican candidate Michele Bachmann last week.
Five protesters gathered across the street from Colite Tuesday, greeting visitors with “Vets against vouchers!”– a reference to Romney’s comments in Mauldin Friday. At the time, Romney theorized allowing veterans to choose between their military benefits or investing those benefits in a private account.
After Romney’s appearance, Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin released a statement through Obama’s reelection campaign. “In his speech today in my great city of Columbia, I was very disappointed to hear Governor Mitt Romney discuss his plan to privatize Medicare and Social Security while rewarding corporations and the wealthy with more tax breaks that come at the expense of the middle class.”
However, Romney never mentioned Medicare or Social Security in his speech, nor did he bring up the tax breaks– although he does support them.