Romney, mulling 2016 run, jabs Clinton and Obama
MITT Romney, considering another presidential run, took swipes at potential 2016 rival Hillary Clinton on Wednesday for “cluelessly” conducting foreign policy, and said Barack Obama’s brand of economics is hurting Americans.
The 2012 Republican nominee, who lost to Obama, has returned to the political spotlight this month after telling donors he remains interested in a third shot at the White House.
In his speech at a university in the nation’s poorest state Mississippi, Romney expanded on campaign-style themes that will fuel speculation about his future.
The former Massachusetts governor and wealthy businessman recast himself as an anti-poverty crusader critical of Obama’s handling of the economy, and took square aim at Clinton.
The former secretary of state “cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine,” Romney told students at Mississippi State University, according to prepared remarks.
“The Middle East and much of North Africa is in chaos,” while China has grown “more assertive,” Romney warned.
Obama, meanwhile, has deployed “timid” foreign policy that left Washington “walking away from his red line in Syria,” slashing Pentagon spending and “insulting friends like Israel and Poland.”
Domestically, Romney acknowledged the economy has been “looking up” in the short term, with unemployment now down to 5.6 percent and the creation of millions of new jobs following the 2007-2008 crisis.
“But it is a lot better for the few, and pretty darn discouraging for the many,” Romney said, adding that incomes have remained stagnant for “decades.”
“I can’t count how many recent college graduates I met who expected a high-paying job at graduation and instead were waiting tables.”
Clinton would be no better at lifting Americans’ economic prospects, Romney warned.
“How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn’t know where jobs come from in the first place?” he said, a reference to a Clinton remark during last year’s mid-term election campaign when she criticized the principle of trickle-down economics.
The address by Romney hits on themes similar to those that marked his doomed 2012 campaign.
But he added a new dimension, as champion of America’s working class, in part by co-opting Obama’s call to reduce income inequality.
“For 50 years and with trillions of dollars, Washington has fought the war on poverty with failed liberal policies,” Romney said.
“It’s finally time to apply conservative policies that improve America’s education system, promote family formation and create good-paying jobs” — policies, he said, that would “help people get out of poverty forever.”
Romney, who guest-lectured a university class Wednesday and spoke of how his loss three years ago made him more optimistic, was dogged by criticism in 2012 that he was an out-of touch millionaire.
The potential candidate’s wealth resurfaced as an inconvenient truth Wednesday, with reports Romney has built two multi-million-dollar homes since the election, and bought a third.
“The reason I’m Republican is because I want to help the poor, the middle class,” reporters quoted Romney as saying.
“The rich in America, by the way, are fine.”
Should he announce a bid, Romney would face stiff competition from a dozen prospective Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents.
In a poll of South Carolina Republican voters published Wednesday, Romney led with 20 percent of respondents, followed by Bush with 16 percent.
Clinton is the clear Democratic frontrunner, though she has not yet formally launched a campaign.