Mitt Romney speaks alongside running mate Paul Ryan at a campaign rally… (Jay Laprete / EPA )
POWELL, Ohio – Mitt Romney had a warmup for next week’s convention speech Saturday, engaging in call-answer chant with an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand people here — and comparing the “faint sound” of protesters in the distance to “a Greek chorus.”
Appearing at a rally here with vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan before the two headed separately to the Republican National Convention, Romney kept a tight focus on his critique of President Obama’s economic record while protesters — who held gravestone-shaped signs bearing slogans like “Medicare R.I.P” and “Hands off my Medicare” chanted within earshot across a lawn.
Mocking Obama’s convention speech four years ago before a stage set with Greek columns, Romney said the protesters were “kind of like the Greek chorus in the background.”
“Everything they do reminds us of Greece and we're not going to Greece, we're going to get America back to being America!” he said, as the crowd waved flags and red, white and blue pompoms. Romney predicted that his Democratic rival would “have all sorts of marvelous things to say” and that this year’s speech will be “filled with promises to tell people how wonderful things are.”
“It is not his words that people have to listen to — it is his action and his record, and if they look at that, they’ll take him out of the office and put people into the office that will actually get America going again.”
In his introduction a few minutes before, Ryan also got into the act, noting that he had seen “some new really ugly statistics this morning about how the middle class has been hit so hard in the last 3½ years.”
“Family household incomes have gone down by more than $4,000 in the last four years,” Ryan said as Romney sat on a stool behind him onstage. “Under Mitt Romney's leadership when he was governor of Massachusetts they went up by $5,000. We have nearly one in six Americans today that are living in poverty. That's the highest rate we've seen in a generation. President Obama's ideas aren't working. Remember when he came into office he and his party controlled it all? They passed just about everything on their agenda item and now we are suffering the consequences as a result.”
Obama, meanwhile, in an interview with the Associated Press on Saturday, charged that Romney has taken “extreme positions” on economic as well as social issues — and attempted a one-two punch by questioning whether Romney really holds those views or has adopted them out of political expediency.
"I can't speak to Gov. Romney's motivations," Obama told the AP. "What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some of the things that he's talked about."
Obama criticized Romney’s call for tax cuts across all income groups as a budget-busting scheme that would favor the wealthy. He said his own economic plans were making a difference and that Romney’s strategy would deepen the troubles of the nation’s middle class.
"We aren't where we need to be. Everybody agrees with that," Obama said. "But Gov. Romney's policies would make things worse for middle-class families and offer no prospect for long-term opportunity for those striving to get into the middle class.”