Republican Mitt Romney meets with advisors Ed Gillespie (from left), Kevin… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — As a military plane flew overhead, Mitt Romney paused during his standard stump speech Thursday evening and said, “I love the sound of those jets.”
The crowd, dotted with people who carried signs that said “Navy Wives 4 Romney” and “Marines 4 Romney,” roared. And Romney launched into his defense policy, a popular issue with the many members of the armed services, their families and business people who rely on them who live in Hampton Roads.
Noting that he was echoing the words of Gov. Bob McDonnell, Romney warned that if President Obama was reelected, the military would see $1 trillion in cuts.
“That means a smaller Air Force and an older Air Force. Our Air Force is older and smaller than any time since it was founded in 1947. And then, of course, the Navy,” he told thousands of supporters gathered in a chilly outdoor arena here. “The Navy said they needed at least 313 ships to be able to fulfill their missions in the world. We’re now down to 285, we’re headed a heck of a lot lower.”
Part of the cuts Romney was referring to stem from a deal between the White House and Congress, which was supported by Romney’s running mate, Paul D. Ryan. The deal included automatic cuts to defense spending if a special congressional committee could not reach a budget compromise, which it did not do.
Romney did not mention Ryan’s vote, but referred to a line Obama famously said during one of their debates.
“Look, I don’t believe the Navy is like bayonets and horses even though I know we use bayonets and they save a lot of lives. Like bayonets, a modern Navy also will save lives because a strong American military, so strong no one would think of testing it, so strong that people would rather meet us on the bargaining table than on the battle field, that is essential to us and the world.”
He pledged to restore the funding, to increase military funding so it equals about 4% of the nation’s gross domestic product and to increase building of Navy ships and purchases or air craft.
“We’ll have more troops, not less troops,” he said. “I believe in a strong military.”
The Obama campaign said Romney did not say how he would pay for all this.
Romney “failed to outline real plans of his own, including how he’d pay for a $2-trillion arbitrary increase in defense spending that military leaders haven’t asked for,” Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. “If voters can’t trust Mitt Romney to level with them now, how could they trust him as president?”
Romney was supposed to hold a rally here on Sunday, but canceled it as a precaution because Hurricane Sandy was barreling toward the Eastern Seaboard.
"Obviously the pending hurricane changed everything,” he said. “And I guess we just gave you notice yesterday that we were going to be here tonight and the fact that you've turned out in such -- in such a response as this is overwhelming. I appreciate it. It's a great sign."