Mitt Romney got in several jabs at President Obama and emphasized his business credentials in addressing an audience of conservative activists in Washington Friday morning.
His speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) hinted he’ll run for president in 2012.
The former governor of Massachusetts prefaced how he would handle the economy with the phrase, “if I were to decide to run for president,” which drew cheers from the crowd. Romney, who ran in the 2008 GOP presidential primary, is widely expected to make another run for the White House.
While other possible candidates talked about repealing healthcare in their CPAC speeches, Romney barely mentioned it.
It came up when he accused Obama and “liberals” of looking to “European solutions” to the economic crisis by increasing government spending and moving for a “takeover” of healthcare.
“It does not work there and it will never work here,” Romney said. “We are an exceptional land.”
The healthcare reform law could be a tough issue for Romney if he runs. While he was governor of Massachusetts, he signed that state’s controversial healthcare plan – which includes an individual mandate – into law.
Some potential GOP presidential candidates have already started hitting Romney on that issue.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told The Hill last month that “it’s just hard for me to see how [Romney] gets past that [in a Republican primary].”
Instead, Romney, who made a fortune as a management consultant and was widely credited for saving the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic games, emphasized his business credentials.
He said it would not take him two years to “wake up to the job crisis threatening America.”
The former governor also got in a dig at Obama’s economic team, saying he wouldn’t be asking Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner or former Obama economic adviser Lawrence Summers “how to start a business.”
“I know,” Romney said.
He compared Obama’s handling of the economic downturn to that of former President Jimmy Carter, citing the “misery index” Ronald Reagan used in the 1980 campaign to measure the economy under his administration.
Romney said there is now an “Obama misery index … and it’s at a record high,” he said, pointing out that there were more jobs created in Canada than the United States last month.
“It’s going to take more than new rhetoric to put Americans back to work. It’s going to take a new president,” he said to much applause from the crowd.
Another line that got a lot of applause from the crowd: “I refuse to believe that America is just another place on the map with a flag.”