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Romney wows GOP delegates in Vancouver

Likely presidential contender attacks Obama on economy, oil spill

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Former Massachusetts Gov.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney takes aim at President Barack Obama while giving the keynote speech at the 2010 Washington State Republican Party Convention at the Hilton Vancouver Washington on Saturday. Photo Gallery

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, sounding very much like a presidential contender, lambasted President Barack Obama on Saturday on issues from his economic policies to his handling of the Gulf oil spill.

Speaking to nearly 1,200 Republican delegates in Vancouver on the final day of the Washington GOP’s 2010 state convention, Romney accused the Obama administration of discouraging job creation and economic growth by proposing new taxes and driving the federal deficit to a record $1.6 trillion.

“The president has inexcusably lengthened and deepened the recession” with policies including the federal stimulus bill, health reform and proposed cap and trade legislation that could raise energy costs for all Americans, he said.

Romney, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, is widely regarded as a likely candidate for 2012. His Boston-based political action committee, Free and Strong PAC, is endorsing candidates in congressional and gubernatorial races across the nation.

Delivering the keynote address at the convention, Romney accused Obama of a grievous failure of leadership in dealing with the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“He is totally out of his depth in dealing with a crisis,” Romney said. Instead of calling on experts from oil companies and academia around the world to help control the spill, he said, Obama “hasn’t even met with the president of BP. Instead, he’s trying to figure out who to blame.”

Drawing from the theme of his new book “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” he also castigated Obama for what he called “his apology tour,” a series of trips abroad Obama made early in his presidency to try to mend fences with allies in Europe and elsewhere.

Obama “went on Arab TV and said America has dictated to other nations,” Romney said. “No, Mr. President, America has freed other nations,” he declared. “Our free enterprise system has lifted millions of people out of poverty.”

The character of the United States was formed by people who risked life and limb by leaving their homelands to free themselves from oppression, Romney said. That pioneering, risk-taking attitude “is part of the American spirit,” he said, but it’s now in peril.

“Washington is smothering that spirit, and we can’t let them do it.”

He predicted that the American people, disenchanted with Obama, will elect Republicans in large numbers this year and begin to change the balance of power in Washington. “It is that love of country that convinces me America will rise to the occasion,” he said.

One topic Romney didn’t mention Saturday was his role in helping pass a health care reform law while governor of Massachusetts that bears many similarities to the federal health reform Congress passed this year.

Now something of an elder statesman in the party, Romney has led the field of potential GOP presidential candidates in recent polls.

In an April straw poll conducted by the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, he edged out Texas Congressman Ron Paul; Sarah Palin came in third. In a March poll of 614 self-identified Republican primary voters by Public Policy Polling, he commanded 28 percent of the vote, beating former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Palin placed third and Paul a distant fourth.

In March, Romney launched a 29-state, three-month tour to promote his book. “No Apology” includes the text of speeches and appearances he has made in states that will hold early presidential primaries in 2012, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4523 or kathie.durbin@columbian.com.

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