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Mitt Romney goes after Rick Santorum on spending

February 20, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Mitt Romney greets employees at Meridian Bioscience, in Newtown, Ohio, on Monday.
Mitt Romney greets employees at Meridian Bioscience, in Newtown, Ohio,… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)

Reporting from Newtown, Ohio — Mitt Romney, campaigning in a state where he hasn't led the polls in more than a month, slashed at GOP rival Rick Santorum as a creature of Washington who betrayed conservative principles and acted like a Democrat while in office.

"Sen. Santorum goes to Washington and calls himself a budget hawk. Then after he's been there a while he says he's no longer a budget hawk," Romney told scores of employees of a medical device company in Newtown, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. "Well I am a budget hawk. I don't want to spend more money than we take in."

Romney asserted that Santorum, during two terms as a Pennsylvania senator, voted to raise the debt ceiling five times and the size of the federal government grew by 80%.

"When Republicans go to Washington and spend like Democrats, you're going to have a lot of spending," Romney said. "And that's what we've seen over the last several years."

Romney spoke at a medical device company that was founded by a couple in their garage with $500. Meridian Bioscience now employs 500 people.

"It is the American story, told time and time again," Romney said. "It is what drives our economy to be the most powerful in the world."

But such innovators are threatened, Romney said, by a government in Washington, D.C., that over-regulates and overtaxes. He said that under President Obama's healthcare law, Meridian faces a new 2.5% tax on its revenues, which will cost the company $4 million to $5 million annually and will either drive up customer costs, reduce the number of people it can hire, or both.

"That is simply the wrong way for America to put more Americans back to work," Romney said.

Romney argued that his resume – of leading businesses, turning around the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and serving as governor of Massachusetts – made him uniquely qualified among the GOP field to right the nation's economy.

"I'm the only one who spent the majority of his career in the private sector. I understand what it takes to create jobs and grow jobs. I became a fiscal conservative when I became a business person," he said. "I don't think you can be a liberal business person financially. If you are, you'll go broke."

Romney was accompanied by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who urged GOP voters to coalesce behind Romney, who he said is the most electable candidate.

"It's time to take a stand," he said. "I believe our party needs to come together around someone who can defeat President Obama in November and begin the task of repairing our economy."

Speaking to reporters after the brief event, Portman said he expected the Ohio primary to be tight and that while he expected Romney to be the GOP nominee, he didn't think the matter would be decided until late spring or early summer.

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