Mitt Romney speaks at the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas after being declared… (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty…)
Reporting from Las Vegas — A grateful and confident Mitt Romney thanked Nevada Republicans after romping to victory in his quest for the GOP presidential nomination here Saturday. At the same time, he sharpened his rhetoric against President Obama, whose policies, he said, have failed Nevadans and the American people.
"Four years ago, candidate Obama came to Nevada, promising to help," Romney told a boisterous crowd here at his victory party. "Today, Nevada unemployment is over 12%, home values have plummeted, and Nevada's foreclosure rate is the highest in the nation. I've walked in Nevada neighborhoods, blighted by abandoned homes, where people wonder why Barack Obama failed them.
"Well, Mr. President, Nevada has had enough of your kind of help!"
Though he has many contests to go before he can declare himself the nominee, Romney remained focused on the White House incumbent. He knocked the president for predicting three years ago that his stimulus program would reduce the unemployment rate to 8%.
"This week, he's been trying to take a bow for 8.3% unemployment. Not so fast, Mr. President," said Romney, to the delight of the crowd. "We welcome any good news on the jobs front, but it is thanks to the innovation of the American people in the private sector, and not to you, Mr. President."
He only briefly alluded to his rivals, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and only as an afterthought in a pointed attack on Obama's stewardship of the economy.
"Like his colleagues in the faculty lounge who think they know better, President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy," Romney said. "I will instead make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for innovators, and for job creators. And by the way, unlike the other people running for president, I know how to do that."
About 600 people filled a ballroom of the elegant Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, a sprawling facility well away from the glitzy Las Vegas Strip.
"The best thing Romney has going for him is that he’s not Obama," said Larry Bleitz, a retired airline pilot, who stood at the back of the noisy party with his wife, Mieke. "I’d take anybody over Obama. The man is a traitor and an American hater." Bleitz said Romney was the only Republican candidate who could beat Obama.
Mieke Bleitz, a Canadian American, chose Romney because she fears the country is heading down a path toward socialized medicine. "Right now, I feel that the U.S. is actually more socialist than Canada," she said, "and I don’t want them going down that road."
Bleitz said she doesn’t worry that the healthcare overhaul that Romney instituted in Massachusetts as governor will prove an impediment to his run since Obama has often said it provided the blueprint for his own healthcare law, which Romney and the other GOP candidates have vowed to repeal if one of them becomes president.
"I think he’s learned his lesson," she said. "I think he’s been humiliated enough with regard to that."
Romney was introduced by his wife, Ann, shortly after networks projected a victory for him.
"Our mission is to increase the freedom and opportunity of the American people," said Romney, surrounded by family members, including a passel of grandkids. "Our blueprint is the Constitution of the United States. We will build an America where ‘hope’ is a new job with a paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker."