Romney Delivers Economic Speech

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned in Florida Tuesday. He delivered an economic speech from a shuttered factory — a studied contrast to the president's State of the Union speech later Tuesday night.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. We begin this hour with Mitt and Newt. The two top Republican contenders campaigned in the Tampa area exactly one week before the Florida primary. In a few minutes, we'll hear more about Newt Gingrich, first though, to Mitt Romney.

BLOCK: Today, Romney released his tax returns and we'll have more on that elsewhere in the program. But during an appearance this morning, he kept his focus on President Obama. Romney offered what his campaign called a pre-buttal to tonight's State of the Union address. NPR's Ari Shapiro was there in Florida.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: From the beginning, it was clear that this would not be a typical stump speech. Romney did not walk into his standard anthem of "Born Free." He delivered his remarks from a teleprompter, not off the cuff as he usually does. And instead of the believe in America banner that typically hangs behind him, smudged white letters against a chalkboard gray background read, Obama isn't working. Romney stood behind a lectern in a cavernous empty warehouse.

MITT ROMNEY: In 2008, this plant closed because of an economic downturn. In a normal recovery, under strong leadership, it could be full of workers by now.

SHAPIRO: What followed was a 15-minute indictment of President Obama. Romney described it as the real state of our union.

ROMNEY: The president's been telling people that his agenda will create economic opportunity that's built to last. That's the phrase he'll use - built to last. Well, let's talk about what's lasted. What's lasted is unemployment above 8 percent for 35 straight months.

SHAPIRO: This is a return to form for Romney. He used to focus exclusively on the president, but since he lost his frontrunner status, he's been focusing more on Newt Gingrich. Romney did not mention Gingrich once this morning, talking, instead, about what a Romney presidency would look like.

ROMNEY: Do you want a president who will keep promising that this time he'll get it right? Do we want a president who keeps telling us why he's right and why we're all wrong? Or do we want a sense of new beginning and excitement that comes with a new leader?

SHAPIRO: Romney didn't mention his tax returns once either. Earlier in the day, he released his paperwork from the last year and an estimate for this year. They show that the family made about $20 million a year, mostly from investments. A physician named Michael Santos(ph) at the Tampa speech said he sees the tax returns as the strongest argument around for the value of capitalism and free enterprise.

MICHAEL SANTOS: He obviously made a fortune in it, but, you know, the old-fashioned way, by working hard, by making good investments, by being better and giving a better service than your competition. So he understands the free enterprise system and is the best person to go out there and defend it.

SHAPIRO: Later this afternoon, Romney focused on a different, more painful side of the free enterprise system, the foreclosure crisis. He spoke to voters in front of a vacant home in the Fort Myers area. As people arrived, the music from the speakers played, somewhat incongruously, "Celebrate Good Times." Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Lehigh Acres, Florida.

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