Mitt Romney picks up $2 million during Florida swing

The Miami HeraldMay 17, 2012 

Mitt Romney swung through Florida on Wednesday, picking up more than $2 million in political contributions while bashing President Barack Obama as an ineffective leader.

Romney pointed out that, earlier in the day, the Senate scuttled the president’s budget.

“The number of Senators who voted for the Obama budget was zero. He has shown a remarkable lack of leadership,” Romney said during an evening fundraiser at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

“This is an individual who has not been in a leadership capacity before and is learning on the job,” Romney said. “This vote is another example of people in Washington seeing that this president can not get the job done.”

While Romney’s speeches in South Florida and Tampa Bay were long on criticisms of Obama, they were short on specifics.

Romney’s attack on the president’s spending record left unclear how the former Massachusetts governor’s largely vague budget plans — cutting taxes and ramping up defense spending — will reign in the country’s deficit. He has avoided identifying tax loopholes he would eliminate or specifically where he would make dramatic budget cuts required to make a real dent in the deficit.

In an interview with local media in Tampa Wednesday, Romney mentioned eliminating subsidies for the National Endowment of the Arts and Amtrak, which make up a fraction of federal spending. And in his public remarks, Romney drew a standing ovation when he promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he said would cut nearly a trillion dollars by 2016.

But in addition to spending tens of billions of dollars to expand health care coverage, the health care law also includes provisions to reduce the deficit, such as taxing high-end health care plans, charging fees to health insurers and slowing the growth of Medicare spending.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing all of the health care reform would reduce the deficit by just $16 billion by 2016 and over the longer term could actually add to the deficit.

Nonpartisan budget analysts say drastic cuts to domestic spending — everything from education and health spending to border security — would be required to meet Romney’s goals. Romney, who also supports turning over to the states programs such as Medicaid and food stamps to slash spending, said Wednesday it’s past time for hard decisions on federal spending. The alternative is to follow the lead of Greece.

“If you keep a trillion more every year than you take in, then you get to the point of being Greece,” Romney said in Coral Gables.

Romney’s speech at the Biltmore lasted about 13 minutes. He was introduced by former Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart, who praised the Republican presidential candidate as the “clear leader” the nation needs.

“Gosh,” Romney gushed before his 13-minute speech. “You really ought to be in Congress again. “The energy. The Cuban American energy and passion is so wonderful.”

Romney thanked the room for helping turn his fortunes in the Republican primary in January.”

“You delivered the state that I had to win. You may recall, things were looking a little shaky coming into Florida,” Romney said.

Romney said he raised about $2 million Wednesday, “an extraordinary number.” All told, his campaign could raise as much as $10 million on the two-day fundraising swing.

“You’ve got to do that again and again and again. And you’ve got to get people out to vote,” he said. “Florida could well be a make-it-or-break-it state.”

Romney was welcomed to Florida by a Democratic assault for his past ties with Bain Capital, a venture capital firm that bought a Miami business, Dade Behring, which eventually closed.

Romney’s campaign and Bain Capital said the firm’s management of Dade Behring helped stall the demise of the company. Some Dade Behring former workers, however, fault the company for its management.

Romney also faced criticism for hosting a fundraiser at the Star Island home of Phil Frost, who runs a pharmaceutical company that makes a type of birth control that Romney had bashed on the campaign trail during the Republican primary.

Romney said the president and Democrats are trying to shift the focus of the campaign away from the economy.

“One of the things that’s been most disappointing to me over these last several months is watching this president divide America,”’ Romney said. In the interest of his reelection he’s trying to find some way to talk about something other than his record and to find someone else to blame for the challenges people feel.”

Romney thanked those in the room for their help

“You’re not doing it for me. You’re doing it for the country. That’s why I’m doing this.

I love America.”

Times researcher Caryn Baird and Times staff writer Justin George contributed to this report.

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