(Updates with Romney comments starting in the second paragraph. For more campaign news, see ELECT.)
Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Florida voters today that Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was “detached from reality” as he pointed to a trip the president made last week to Disney World.
“I was reminded of his trip just a week or so ago when he spoke at Fantasyland,” Romney said during a speech at a sheet metal company warehouse in Orlando. “He was speaking in fantasyland again last night. He seemed so extraordinarily detached from reality.”
Obama last night emphasized populist themes, including tax fairness, help for homeowners, cracking down on U.S. financial crimes and unfair trade practices in China, and investigating the lending practices that preceded the housing crisis.
Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, also took a swipe at his Republican rivals, including Newt Gingrich, as a new poll shows the former U.S. House speaker surging in Florida before the state’s Jan. 31 primary vote.
Romney led Gingrich by 36 percent to 34 percent in a Jan. 19-23 poll released today by Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University. The telephone survey of 601 likely Republican primary voters in Florida has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. In a Quinnipiac poll released Jan. 9, Romney led Gingrich 36 percent to 24 percent.
‘Not Just a Lobbyist’
“It’s time to have a president who’s not just a lobbyist and not just a legislator and not just a blamer and a campaigner, but a president who knows how to get the job done because he’s done it time and time again,” said Romney, who made millions of dollars as a private-equity executive for Bain Capital LLC. “I will get America working again because I know how to get America working again.”
He has insisted that Gingrich’s past work for Freddie Mac amounted to lobbying and “influence peddling,” while Gingrich said he was paid to act as a consultant and historian to the mortgage company.
Romney’s wealth provided fresh fodder for his opponents a day after he released a tax return showing that he earned $21.6 million in 2010 and used preferential rates for investment income and charitable contributions to hold his overall tax rate down to 13.9 percent.
Gingrich today mocked Romney’s call during a Jan. 23 debate for undocumented immigrants to voluntarily “self-deport” home to get work there.
‘Swiss Bank Accounts’
“You have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts,” Gingrich said during an event in Doral, Florida. “For Romney to believe that somebody’s grandmother is going to be so cut off that she’s going to self-deport, this is an Obama-level fantasy.”
Romney has branded as “amnesty” a Gingrich proposal to permit some law-abiding, English-speaking illegal immigrants who have been in the country for an extended period and have civic and religious ties in their communities to become U.S. citizens.
Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, said Romney’s tax rate illustrates why lawmakers should endorse the president’s call last night for a minimum 30 percent tax rate for people with incomes of $1 million or more a year.
“Mitt may have thought story would be buried by SOU, but, if so, it was a Swiss Miss,” Axelrod said in a posting on Twitter today. “His tax release helped make case for Buffett rule.” Obama has dubbed his tax proposal “the Buffett Rule,” based on billionaire Warren Buffett’s observation that he pays a lower rate than his secretary.
Both Gingrich and Romney criticized Obama’s focus in his annual televised speech to Congress.
“The president described his conviction that his big government is built to last and should be paid for with higher taxes,” Gingrich said in a statement. “Bigger government and higher taxes will not lead to jobs and growth,” but rather to “more people on food stamps.”
Romney said Obama had failed to adequately address the problem of federal spending and deficits.
“This is a president who talks about deregulation even as he regulates, who talks about lowering taxes even as he raises them,” Romney said in his Orlando remarks. “We are, if you will, a virtual Titanic and he’s saying ‘full speed ahead.’” Romney said.
“The difference, of course, is that they couldn’t see the iceberg,” Romney said. “In this case, we can see the iceberg.”
He said Obama is wrong to suggest the nation is headed in the right direction.
“Mr. President, things aren’t going so swimmingly,” Romney said. “When you got up and said on the ‘Today Show’ three years ago that if you couldn’t turn around this economy in three years, you’d be looking at a one-term proposition, well, you’re right and we’re here to collect.”
Romney briefly praised Obama for talking about China trade policy, before quickly criticizing him again.
“I took some pleasure in the fact that he’s talking about cracking down on China, even as he has not done so,” he said.
--With assistance from Greg Giroux in Washington. Editor: Laurie Asseo, Robin Meszoly
To contact the reporters on this story: John McCormick in Orlando at email@example.com; Jonathan D. Salant in Doral at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at email@example.com