Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event in Lehigh, Fla. (Emmanuel Dunand / Getty…)
Reporting from Orlando, Fla. — Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney gave a backhanded compliment to President Obama, saying after the president's State of the Union speech Tuesday night that Obama had “basically adopted a lot of thoughts that we’ve had on the campaign trail. Unfortunately, what he says and what he has done are so dramatically different that you have to be a little surprised.”
Interviewed on NBC, Romney described Obama as out of touch with the misery that many Americans are feeling in places like Florida, scene of the next GOP primary on Jan. 31.
“He seems to think America’s on the right track and things are going well,” said the former Massachusetts governor, going on to cite the 9.9% jobless rate, plunge in home values and high rate of foreclosures in the Sunshine State.
PHOTOS: Obama's State of the Union address
“The idea that we’re on the right track is something which is very foreign to the people here,” said Romney, speaking from Orlando.
The Republican contender did not disagree with a line of post-speech analysis that suggested Obama had Romney in mind when he crafted the address.
“Well, in some respects, I have to compliment the president on adopting a whole series of ideas that I’ve been speaking about for the last several years,” Romney said. “If you want to get the economy going, lower corporate tax rates; of course he’s raised them. Lower the level of regulation; of course, he’s added regulation at three times the rate of his predecessor. Take advantage of all of our energy resources. He’s really held off on coal, on oil, on gas, on nuclear. Then, he said crack down on China. Those are the things I’ve been saying. Unfortunately, what he’s been doing is the exact opposite of that, and that’s one of the reasons it’s been so hard for this economy to recover.”
Romney ducked when asked whether he favored doing away with a tax break that richly benefited him -- a 15% rate on "carried interest," which is paid by many wealthy investors and hedge-fund operators, including Romney. Critics say those earnings are really compensation, rather than an investment, and should be taxed as ordinary income, at rates of up to 35% for the wealthiest earners.
Romney responded by referring to the 15% rate on capital gains and did not directly address carried interest. A Romney advisor had appeared to suggest earlier in the day that Romney no longer supported retention of the tax break, unlike his position in his 2008 presidential run. But a campaign spokesman reiterated later in the day that Romney does not want to raise anyone's taxes.
During a conference call about Romney's taxes, Romney campaign policy director Lanhee Chen indicated, in response to a question about carried interest, that there "are a number of provisions that would be addressed in the (tax) code, exemptions, deductions, credits, administrative treatment regarding certain types of income that would be addressed in tax reform. Those provisions are properly addressed as part of a larger tax reform effort than overall effort to broaden the tax base and lower tax rates."