WASHINGTON — Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney had a few choice words to President Barack Obama on Monday as the two gear up for a monumental elections battle: “start packing.”
Obama leads in the polls in a prospective head-to-head November matchup with Romney, but the challenger is putting the incumbent on notice that he feels the upcoming White House battle is very winnable.
When asked in an interview with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer if there was anything he wished to say to Obama, Romney said with a chuckle, “Well, start packing.
“Obviously we have a very different view. The president, I’m sure, wants another four years, but the first years didn’t go so well,” Romney said, citing anemic job growth, a slow emergence from recession and mountains of debt.
“He has guided America in the wrong direction, and it’s time for us to return to the principles of freedom and opportunity that got this nation where it is today.”
Ann Romney, sitting next to her husband during the interview that airs later Monday, said “I believe it’s Mitt’s time.”
“He is the person who can turn around this economy. So I think it’s our turn now,” she said.
The Republican flagbearer can come across as wooden on the campaign trail, and Ann Romney, whose profile has soared in recent days after a Democratic strategist insisted the homemaker and mother of five boys had “never worked a day in her life,” is credited with softening his image.
The candidate is skewered almost weekly on US comedy show “Saturday Night Live,” which portrays him as buttoned up and stiff, but on Monday Romney suggested he was willing to take the comedic bull by the horns, saying a possible appearance on the show sounded “like a lot of fun.”
He said he was entertaining the idea, but had an important demand: “I want it to be funny.”
With Romney now pivoting toward the general election battle, he said he was tapping long-time aide Beth Myers to coordinate his search for a running mate.
“I’ve asked her to be the person who oversees the process of the vice presidential selection and vetting and analysis, and so she’s begun that process and is putting together the kinds of things you need to do to vet potential candidates,” Romney told ABC.
Myers served as Romney’s chief of staff when he was governor of Massachusetts, then managed his 2008 presidential campaign, when he lost the Republican nomination to Senator John McCain.
Romney would not reveal details of when he will make his pick, saying only that “it would certainly be by the time of the convention” in late August.
“I don’t think we’ve chosen the time we’d actually make an announcement.”
Speculation over who Romney will pick has swirled ever since his main rival Rick Santorum dropped out of the race, essentially handing the Republican nomination to Romney.
US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is seen as near the top of any short list for the position, particularly if Romney prioritizes his need to appeal to Hispanic voters, who favor President Barack Obama by a wide margin.
Romney described Rubio as “one of the terrific leaders” of the Republican Party but stopped short of saying whether he’s a leading contender.
“I think it’s way too early to begin narrowing down who the potential vice presidential nominees might be,” Romney said. “But we’re beginning that process.”
Romney’s pick is expected to get huge scrutiny, after McCain’s choice of virtual unknown Alaska governor Sarah Palin was seen as a liability.