Mitt Romney campaigns in Fort Worth. (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
FORT WORTH — Courting Latino voters, Mitt Romney argued Tuesday that they had been devastated by the nation’s economic difficulties and that President Obama had failed them.
“This Obama economy has been hard particularly on Hispanic businesses and Hispanic Americans,” he said, noting that unemployment among Latinos rose last month to 11% and that 1 in 3 Americans living in poverty were Latinos. “Hispanic Americans in large measure have looked to entrepreneurs and innovators and small business to get going, but this has been such an … anti-small business, hostile-to-small-business environment that it’s been harder for those businesses to open up their doors and to hire more people. I can tell you that if I'm the next president of the United States, I'll be the president for all Americans and make sure this economy is good for all Americans, Hispanic and otherwise.”
Romney made the remarks at a Latino-owned office equipment dealer that he said had stopped replacing departing workers because of uncertainty about the future. He stood beneath a giant Texas flag and in front of a banner that said “Putting Jobs First.”
The Obama campaign responded that the slogan contradicted Romney’s record as head of a private-equity firm and governor of Massachusetts, when the state was 47thin job creation.
“Now he wants to bring back the same policies that crashed the economy and devastated the middle class in the first place: budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthiest on the middle class’ dime and letting Wall Street write its own rules,” said Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith. “Romney economics didn’t work then and it won’t work now.”
Given its deep red tilt, Texas is a given in Romney's column in the general election. But in a sign of the difficulties that the presumptive GOP nominee will face with Latino voters, a protester at the event unfurled a large white banner objecting to Romney’s immigration policies, an issue that is likely to hurt his chances among Latino voters in states that are in play, such as Colorado and Nevada. The protester was led out by a police officer.
Romney didn’t mention immigration during his remarks, nor did he discuss the news of the day -– the recall vote taking place in Wisconsin or a Congressional Budget Office report about the nation’s deficit.
He thanked Lone Star State voters for helping him clinch the GOP nomination in their primary last week.
“Thank you, Texas, for taking me over the line and helping me get the nomination. Thank you!” he said. “That was good news and you guys worked hard to get me over that line. I appreciate it very much.”
Romney also mentioned Gov. Rick Perry and former President George W. Bush, Texans who quietly endorsed him after the nomination was effectively decided.
He called Perry “a great friend.”
“We had a lot of people in the contest. We all came together because we recognize there’s something we’ve got to do as Republicans -- come together to defeat Barack Obama and take back America,” Romney said.
He said Obama’s attempts to blame Bush for the nation’s economic straits would not work.
“After three-and-a-half years people have figured out this is Obama's economy, not George Bush's economy,” Romney said, adding that the president’s attempts to blame Congress or the debt crises in Europe would also be ineffective. “Look, I'm convinced that this man is out of ideas; I know he's out of excuses, and in 2012, you’re going to make sure we vote him out of office.”
Romney was not scheduled to appear publically with Bush or Perry during his two-day Texas swing.
Wealthy donors in the state contributed heavily to Perry’s failed presidential bid, and an analysis by the Dallas Morning News found that many of these donors have been hesitant to get behind Romney.
But they will have plenty of chances Tuesday and Wednesday. The Fort Worth event was his sole public appearance, but he will attend at least six fundraisers across the state during the remainder of his trip, starting with a Tuesday evening reception at the Belo Mansion in Dallas.