(Lucy Nicholson, Reuters )
As Congress grapples with finding enough votes to pass the compromise on raising the debt ceiling, Mitt Romney, the front-runner in most polls on the GOP presidential nomination sweepstakes, came out forcefully against the plan Monday.
In a prepared statement, Romney attacked President Obama and rejected the deal, which has been the only issue in Washington for the past weeks and, along with the economy, is likely to dominate presidential politics through the 2012 election.
“President Obama’s leadership failure has pushed the economy to the brink at the eleventh hour and 59th minute,” Romney stated. “While I appreciate the extraordinarily difficult situation President Obama’s lack of leadership has placed Republican members of Congress in, I personally cannot support this deal.”
Like many of his fellow candidates, Romney has been mainly silent during the ongoing debt ceiling debate, leaving it to congressional colleagues to negotiate with Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House. His conspicuous silence has drawn fire from Democrats who see him as one of the GOP’s most dangerous opponents against Obama because the former Massachusetts governor seems able to draw independent voters.
“To date, Mitt Romney has shown no ability to lead or even share where he would stand on the issue that has threatened our nation with default and dominated the news for a month,” Bill Burton, a former deputy spokesman to Obama, said in an email Sunday. Burton is a founder and strategist for Priorities USA Action, a super political action committee.
The debt-ceiling issue is especially tough for Romney, who is trying to thread the needle between conservatives, whom he needs to win the nomination, and less vocal independents whom he needs to win in November 2012. Led by the “tea party” movement, conservatives were seeking sharper spending cuts with promises of no tax increases and a reshaping of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
In his statement, Romney tried to appeal to conservatives. “As president, my plan would have produced a budget that was cut, capped and balanced – not one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table,” he stated.