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In president's hometown, Mitt Romney criticizes Obama's economic policies

May 26, 2011|By John Byrne, Chicago Tribune
(Ethan Miller, Getty Images )

Reporting from Chicago —

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney swung throughChicago on Thursday to raise money and put together a state campaign team for another run at the White House.

Romney named state Treasurer Dan Rutherford as hisIllinois chairman. Rutherford did the same honors in 2008, when Romney finished a distant second in this state to eventual nominee Sen. John McCain.

"[Rutherford] was with me last time around, and made things happen here. This time we're going to be more successful," Romney said while talking with reporters after he and Rutherford had a lunch meeting with area business owners at Gino’s East pizzeria in the Near North neighborhood.

Romney, the former governor ofMassachusetts, listened to a litany of complaints about America's business climate while eating a slice of deep dish sausage and mushroom pizza. He said President Obama has pursued policies that have weakened the economy.

"You have ticked off a number of the features that I find very troubling," Romney said, agreeing with business owners' complaints that taxes and healthcare costs are too high.

"Business can handle bad news. Business has a hard time with uncertainty," he added.

Before the public event, Romney held a private fundraiser attended by about 75 people at the Hilton and Towers across from Grant Park.

Romney and Rutherford were set to fly toChampaign for another fundraiser, hosted by the founder of the Jimmy John's sandwich shop chain, Jimmy John Liautaud, who has been a major GOP donor.

After his Illinois visit, Romney will head to the first-in-the-nation caucus state ofIowa, where he will kick-off the GreaterDes Moines Partnership's presidential candidate series on Friday. The Greater Des Moines Partnership is a business group.

Though Romney is much better known inNew Hampshire -- which will hold the first-in-the-nation presidential primary after the Feb. 6 Iowa caucuses -- he said today he plans to spend a lot of time in Iowa.

"I'm going to get to see some friends back in Iowa on a pretty regular basis," he said. "If this campaign goes forward, why, I certainly expect to do my effort in virtually every state in the nation."

Romney, who moved toUtah to run the 2002 Winter Olympics, faced a residency challenge while running for Massachusetts governor. Asked today if he felt an affinity for Rahm Emanuel, who faced his own residency challenge during his campaign for mayor of Chicago, Romney offered some praise.

"I wish him the very best. It looks to me like he's getting off to a good start, working hard," Romney said. "I hope he does a fine job here for the people in Chicago. My residency challenge was one I was able to bat down pretty easily."

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