Mitt Romney campaigns in Green Bay, Wis., as Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) looks… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)
Reporting from Washington — With polls showing him comfortably ahead one day before the Wisconsin Republican primary, front-runner Mitt Romney joined with native son Rep. Paul Ryan to make the case that the GOP has the best formula to bring the federal budget under control.
Ryan, who last week endorsed Romney, introduced the candidate at a campaign event at a building supply business in Green Bay, declaring that Romney is the best candidate to head off a "predictable economic crisis" if the federal deficit is not brought under control.
Ryan also took a jab at President Obama, asserting that the president, not Congress, has been responsible for much of the polarization that has gripped Washington.
Congress is ready to take a bipartisan approach to dealing with the nation's most significant problems, including taxes, healthcare and the deficit, Ryan said. "If you put aside the White House ... there are some bipartisan efforts that are underway," Ryan said.
Romney, promising to fill what he describes as a leadership vacuum were he to win the presidency, said he would be best suited to "get Democrats to start thinking realistically."
Healthcare reform was a main topic of the event, not surprising given that Ryan is known nationally for his federal budget proposals, which propose heavy cuts in spending, significantly lower tax rates and a revamp of Medicare that would institute a set amount of money for seniors to either allocate toward a traditional healthcare setup or to purchase a privately run option.
In addition, Romney proposes taking federal dollars allocated to states to pay for Medicaid and transforming them into block grants, which would be distributed to individual states without any federal strings attached. Romney said a repeal of the "Obamacare" reforms would be a first-day priority in his administration.
"Hopefully the court will do the job for us," he said, referring to last week's Supreme Court hearing on the legislation. "If not, we’ll do it for them."
While Romney sought to keep the focus on economic issues, the event paused briefly when it was opened to questions from the audience and a man tried to ask Romney about allegedly racist beliefs within the Mormon faith.
"A lot of people say your Mormon faith may not be a concern in the election. But I think it might be as I found these verses in the Mormon book. Moses 7:8 says ...” the attendee began before his microphone was taken away.
The passage in question, which is actually from the "Pearl of Great Price," a collection of materials from church founder Joseph Smith, says, "There was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people,” an excerpt that some have used to allege racist doctrine within the Mormon church.
Romney refused to engage in a discussion of his beliefs, though he did respond a short time later when he was asked for a response concerning frequent remarks from pundits that he is "out of touch" with individual Americans.
Reflecting on his 10 years working in the role of a pastor, Romney listed off personal burdens -- personal, marital, medical, etc. -- on which he said he has worked with people, expanding on that to contend that all Americans have burdens that often go unaddressed.
"One of the reasons I’m running is I want to help people, I want to ease that burden," Romney told the crowd. He painted a picture of an America full of burdens -- many of which he blamed on Obama’s administration -- where even those gainfully employed are not free of worry.
But Romney said that after meeting with numerous Americans on the campaign trail, "I’m more optimistic, not less. We have a gift no one else in the world has. We're American."
Hoping to close out the Republican presidential race as soon as possible, and to fulfill Ryan’s call last week for the party to unite behind Romney as its candidate, the former Massachusetts governor is looking to Wisconsin to be an example of his ability to win in states outside of the traditional Republican reach. In 2008, Obama defeated John McCain in Wisconsin by nearly 14 points.
A newly released Public Policy Polling survey puts Romney ahead of rival Rick Santorum in Wisconsin, 43% to 36% among likely GOP voters. In Maryland, a PPP poll shows Romney leading Santorum by 25 points, offering Romney the chance to build momentum heading into a campaign break. After Tuesday’s votes in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, the next Republican primary is set for April 24 in Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania.
Original source: Romney addresses 'out of touch' label, federal budget in Wisconsin