Romney Courts Vets At American Legion Convention

One day before the biggest speech of his life, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed the American Legion's annual meeting in Indiana. He attacked President Obama for allowing deep Pentagon cuts that both parties in Congress agreed to.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, as Isaac moves north from Louisiana, it could affect other parts of the country, and we'll be following that story as it develops. The other big story we have been following this week is the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Today is the final day, and it's an important one for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. He'll officially accept the nomination this evening.

Yesterday, Romney took a break from the hubbub of the convention to do a little campaigning elsewhere. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on his getaway.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: The morning after his wife's speech to the Republican convention, Mitt Romney hopped a plane for a day trip to Indianapolis. That's where thousands of veterans are meeting for the American Legion convention.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMERICAN LEGION CONVENTION)

UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN LEGION OFFICIAL: ...the massive influx into the country of illegal immigrants.

SHAPIRO: When Romney's entourage arrived, an American Legion official was reading a resolution condemning illegal immigration. Democrats are trying to make inroads with veterans, particularly young vets. But this largely gray-haired audience is not an Obama-friendly crowd. Bobbie Lussier is a retiree from Manassas, Virginia. She's there with her husband, who's a vet. And she has strong feelings about President Obama.

BOBBIE LUSSIER: I just - I don't like him. Can't stand to look at him. I don't like his wife. She's far from the first lady. It's about time we get a first lady in there that acts like a first lady, and looks like a first lady.

SHAPIRO: The president spoke to this group in person, last year. This week, Mr. Obama addressed them by video. That was the first of many contrasts Romney drew with his rival.

MITT ROMNEY: When our nation called, you answered. And I consider any opportunity to address our nation's veterans, a privilege not to be missed.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

SHAPIRO: His speech mostly focused on foreign policy. He attacked the president for allowing deep Pentagon cuts that both parties in Congress agreed to. And Romney repeated his accusation that this president has lowered America's standing on the international stage.

ROMNEY: In dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it's not earned, insult where it's not deserved, and apology where it's not due.

SHAPIRO: Romney offered new ways to expand veterans' education, jobs and health care. For example, he says vets should get in-state tuition rates no matter where they live. And he wants people with military training to get trade credentials more easily.

ROMNEY: And anytime a veteran is unable to receive timely health care from the VA system, he or she will be allowed to see a TRICARE provider at the VA's expense.

SHAPIRO: TRICARE is the military's health-care program. Less than three hours after he touched down in Indiana, Romney was back on a plane to Tampa, where he will accept his party's nomination to be president tonight.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Romney campaign.

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