Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney… (Michael Spooneybarger…)
PENSACOLA, Fla. — As Floridians headed to the polls on the first day of early voting, Mitt Romney appealed to the military vote in the Panhandle, criticizing President Obama for impending cuts that Romney said would imperil the nation’s safety and harm the local economy.
“His vision is not greatness in America’s Navy or America’s military. His vision is to cut our military spending by a trillion dollars,” Romney told thousands gathered in a concrete arena here. “And by the way, a trillion dollars in cuts would cost about 41,000 jobs here in Florida, and think of all the businesses that depend on all those jobs.”
PHOTOS: Mitt Romney's past
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 has proposed increasing military spending, and building more Navy ships.
“You may recall in our most recent debate I made the point that our Navy is now smaller than any time well, in almost a hundred years, and the president’s response was, well, you know, we don’t use bayonets and horses anymore,” Romney said. “In fact we do use bayonets, and a modern Navy is one of the critical elements that allows us to protect sea lanes and to keep the world more free and prosperous.”
Pensacola is a logical place to press the matter as the city is home to a naval air station that employs 23,400 members of the military and civilians. It was the first naval air station commissioned by the Navy, in 1914, leading the area to be referred to as the cradle of naval aviation.
Romney also debuted a new video, a collection of clips from the campaign trail featuring the candidate announcing his bid for the presidency, announcing his running mate, delivering fiery remarks at rallies and visiting with voters, interspersed with scenes of Americana.
Romney was introduced by Rep. Connie Mack and Sen. Marco Rubio, who urged voters to head to the polls.
INTERACTIVE: Predict a winner in the battleground states
“You need to go out and vote, you need to make sure five other people go out and vote. You can convince five other people to go, you know who they are,” Rubio said. “They want to vote but they’re not going to unless you get them there. You need to go get them there. And if you know people in some other states, places like, I don’t know, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, you need to call them on the phone.
The Florida senator poked fun at a booklet Obama released about his plans for a second term.
“He just put out a picture book that he calls his plan for the next four years. Unfortunately there’s nothing really innovative in that picture book. They’re the ideas that have failed every time they’ve ever been tried,” Rubio said. “They’re expensive ideas. They’re the ideas of countries that people come here to get away from.”
Asked later by reporters which countries he was referring to, Rubio declined to name one.
Romney laid out his five-point plan that he says will create 12 million jobs, promised to pursue bipartisan solutions if elected and argued that the president’s campaign has focused on gaffes and “small things” because he has no record to run on.
“The president’s agenda keeps getting smaller and smaller and smaller, not just for our military but for Medicare, for jobs,” Romney said. “This is not a president who has been able to stand up to the challenge of the times. This is an election about big things, about big choices, and that’s why in November we’re going to elect a person and a team and a people who are going to come together to bring real change and big change to America.”
The Obama campaign responded by saying Romney’s words about bipartisanship were laughable given the GOP nominee’s record.
“Over the last six years he’s been running for president, he hasn’t stood up once to the most extreme voices in the Republican Party -- in fact, he catered to them,” said Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith, noting that Romney continues to support an Indiana Senate candidate who said that a pregnancy caused by rape is God’s will. “And at today’s event, his introducer, Sen. Marco Rubio, compared President Obama’s policies to those of countries that people try to flee – not exactly the words of a party who wants to reach across the aisle and get things done. Mitt Romney’s empty promises of bipartisanship might sound nice, but they’re not to be trusted.”