Standing in front of an abandoned 19th century stone arch bridge restored with federal stimulus money, Mitt Romney assailed President Barack Obama’s record on spending, saying he swelled the U.S. debt with wasteful expenditures.
“That’s your stimulus dollars at work: A bridge that goes nowhere,” the presumed Republican presidential nominee said in an appearance yesterday beside the Contoocook River in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, where the bridge dead-ends into a fence eight feet over the grassy riverbank.
“It is, without question, the largest one-time careless expenditure of government money in American history,” Romney said, referring to the $831 billion stimulus measure enacted near the start of Obama’s term.
The bridge -- closed to car traffic for almost 30 years -- received $150,000 in stimulus money for preservation and repair. Romney was comparing it to an Alaska road project that came to be known as the “Bridge to Nowhere” and to symbolize the earmarking practice in Washington that enables lawmakers to steer large sums to pet programs in their home states and districts.
Romney’s appearance capped a week spent attacking Obama on spending and debt, and came the same day his campaign unveiled its first advertisement of the general-election season. The spot describes what Romney, 65, would do on “Day One” of his presidency and contains no direct criticism of Obama, yet describes an agenda that defies the president’s in every way.
The ad asserts that Romney would immediately approve TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, which Obama’s administration has blocked, cut taxes, and replace the medical-insurance law the president pushed to enactment in 2010 with “common-sense health-care reform.”
“You folks are going to have a big say about who our next president is,” Romney said in a town hall meeting conducted via telephone with voters in Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia -- the politically competitive states where the ad is making its debut. “So it’s not at random that I have chosen these states.”
Romney also criticized Obama anew for the health-care measure, saying the president pursued it even though his top economic adviser at the time, Lawrence Summers, had warned him that doing so would slow the recovery.
‘Make Life Harder’
“That means they went into this knowing that when they passed Obamacare, it was going to make life harder for the American people,” Romney said. He cited a new book, “The Escape Artists,” by Noam Scheiber, an editor at the New Republic magazine.
Obama’s campaign responded that the president’s policies had “helped bring the economy back from the brink of another Depression.”
“We’ve now seen over 4.2 million jobs created over the last 26 months,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in an e-mailed statement. “Mitt Romney would bring back the failed economic policies that created the economic crisis in the first place -- budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and letting Wall Street write its own rules.”
Romney, who started his week in Iowa, spent the bulk of it raising money and campaigning in Florida -- where his finance chief estimated he was on track to raise almost $10 million in two days -- before returning to New Hampshire, where he owns a lakeside home.
After focusing on debt and spending this week, Romney plans to pivot to an education-focused message next week, campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said.
First, Romney told reporters May 17, he planned to head to his home in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, on Lake Winnipesaukee to open the six-bedroom, 5,400-square-foot house for the summer season, including putting his boat in the water and hauling out picnic tables.
The former Massachusetts governor will resume his whirlwind pace of fundraisers tomorrow, with an event in Riverside, Connecticut, followed by a money-raising swing through Manhattan on May 21 and May 22.
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