Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, on a public stage for the first time since their ticket lost the 2012 White House race, derided recent efforts by Hillary Clinton to differentiate herself from President Barack Obama.
“Hillary Clinton tries to distance herself from the foreign policy of the president,” said Romney, 67, his party’s presidential nominee two years ago. “That would work better were she not his secretary of state for four years.”
Ryan, 44, the Wisconsin U.S. representative who Romney picked as his vice presidential nominee, criticized the size of the federal government during the joint appearance yesterday in Chicago and said a Clinton administration would “keep these things going.”
Clinton, who polls show is the overwhelming favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, took a step toward breaking with Obama in an interview published earlier this month that suggested he lacked a world view in his foreign policy.
“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” she told the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, referring to a phrase Obama has used to describe his foreign policy.
The comment triggered a fight between a White House eager to defend itself in the face of multiple foreign crises and a Clinton operation eager to separate the potential candidate from some of the administration’s actions. While such efforts may hurt her among Democratic primary voters should she run for president, it may help her win support in a general election campaign from independents and Republicans focused on national security.
Romney also claimed vindication for himself in Clinton’s comments to Goldberg.
“She was very critical of the president’s foreign policy, and basically said ’he doesn’t have one,’” Romney said. “I used to say that during the campaign.”
Romney’s appearance with his ex-running mate for a dinner-time conversation in front of about 350 people at the Union League Club of Chicago was part of Ryan’s national tour this week to promote his new book. The conversation focused heavily on government spending, although Romney was eager to talk about foreign policy.
In his book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea,” and at the Chicago event, Ryan avoided speculation about whether he’ll seek the White House.
Though some Republican leaders have suggested Romney might consider another run, he has denied any interest in such an effort.
He has been an active presence on the midterm campaign trail this year. His travels earlier this week included stops in West Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas, all states with U.S. Senate races in which Republicans are vying to capture Democratic-held seats.
Democrats panned the Chicago appearance, saying the two men and their views were rejected by 2012 voters.
“In 2012, Americans rejected the Romney-Ryan plan that ended Medicare as we know it, shifted the tax burden onto American families or gut programs for the most vulnerable members of society,” Michael Czin, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee said in a statement.
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