(Michael A. Memoli / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Manchester, N.H. — Mitt Romney on Saturday questioned President Obama's motives for ordering the withdrawal of the remaining U.S. forces from Iraq by year's end, saying it was a decision based on either "politics" or "ineptitude."
The former Massachusetts governor said the administration had signaled it would keep some level of troops in place beyond 2011, but that the president now has "failed to deliver."
"Was the president's administration outnegotiated by the Iraqi leaders? Was there a failure to communicate the needs of their military and our own? Or was there simply a political recalculation?" Romney said.
Romney's criticism relates to failed efforts to reach a status-of-forces agreement with the Iraqi government to maintain a small presence before the final transition to the Iraqi military.
"To understand whether their failure was due to politics or due to ineptitude we'd have to hear from military commanders on the ground," he said.
Romney spoke from his campaign headquarters in New Hampshire, where he mingled with supporters and joined volunteers in calling state voters.
"Have you ever heard of Mitt Romney? Well it's me, on the phone," he said to one. "How am I doing? What's your sense from Hollis?" he asked another.
The Romney path to victory relies heavily on a strong performance in New Hampshire. His own analysis was that things "look pretty darn good" at this stage.
Speaking with reporters, Romney also defended a top Republican in another early-voting state, and a potential vice presidential pick: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
The GOP phenom faced questions about his account of his parents' journey to the United States from Cuba after the Washington Post reported on a misstatement on his official website that his parents "came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover." They had actually come in 1956.
"If The Washington Post wants to criticize me for getting a few dates wrong, I accept that. But to call into question the central and defining event of my parents' young lives – the fact that a brutal communist dictator took control of their homeland and they were never able to return – is something I will not tolerate," Rubio said in response to the Post story in an op-ed in Politico.
Romney called the "smear" attempt "unfortunate and bogus."
"I think his family's history, having come to this country, speaks for itself," he said. "Marco Rubio and his family deserve the highest praise and recognition. I think the world of Marco Rubio, support him entirely."