Reporting from Salem, N.H. — Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney brushed aside his party challengers yet again Thursday to deliver a blunt general election assault on President Obama, calling him a “crony capitalist” who had put “union stooges” on the federal board that oversees the workplace.
At a Thursday appearance in Salem, N.H., Romney did not even mention Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman Jr., who were campaigning elsewhere in the state trying to cut into Romney’s massive lead before Tuesday’s primary.
Instead he honed an argument that Obama had turned over the treasury to his political benefactors — in the form of loan guarantees to the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra and others — and was scaring away jobs.
“Capitalism, free enterprise, works. Crony capitalism does not,” Romney said, raising the subject repeatedly during a one-hour gathering of supporters at a local Boys & Girls Club. This president has engaged and is engaging in crony capitalism,” Romney said, adding that Obama had directed government resources to benefit “the big unions that helped out his campaign.”
Romney specifically scored Obama’s appointment on Wednesday of three members to the National Labor Relations Board. The appointments had been stalled by Senate Republicans who said the appointees were too sympathetic to organized labor. Obama made the appointments unilaterally using his power to fill vacancies during congressional recesses. (Republicans countered that they are not in recess and the dispute appears headed for the courts.)
While not necessarily at the forefront of voters’ minds in New Hampshire, the NLRB has been at the center of a long confrontation in South Carolina, which holds its primary on Jan. 21, and it was to its residents that Romney’s remarks appeared directed.
Romney began airing ads in South Carolina Thursday blasting the NLRB for filing a complaint against Boeing that alleged the company had retaliated against union workers in Seattle by putting a nonunion production line in Charleston. The complaint was dropped after the union and Boeing worked out their differences.
Romney’s wingman for his New Hampshire event, Arizona Sen. John McCain, also criticized Obama for his NLRB appointments and castigated the “bureaucrats” who had moved against Boeing.
“This is the classic example of the way that this president regards and frankly abuses the presidency of the United States,” McCain said.
The dual assault on Obama marked the second day that the men, who campaigned fiercely against each other in 2008 — with McCain winning the nomination — have coursed through New Hampshire together. The appearance of McCain, immensely popular among New Hampshire Republicans, was one more sign that Romney was leaving nothing in the state to chance, even with his lead. And he closed his remarks Thursday with an overt appeal for votes Tuesday.
“I need your help,” he said. “I want your help.”
At that, he flew to South Carolina, where he will campaign for more than a day before returning for two debates this weekend.