WASHINGTON — Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney vowed Wednesday to cut unemployment to six percent if elected, saying he has the right business acumen and policies and warned US President Barack Obama not to “attack success.”
It was a day of counterattack by Romney after the president hit out at his corporate record, with the challenger insisting he’d be a better steward of the economy and charging that Obama “just doesn’t have a clue” about how to turn things around.
Romney told Time magazine in an interview that he’d have greater success at reducing the jobless rate, a crucial US economic barometer that Democrats and Republicans alike insist needs to be brought down from its stubbornly high perch of 8.1 percent.
A Romney presidency, he said, would preside over “very dramatic change” to the US business environment and would “get the unemployment rate down to six percent or perhaps a little lower” after four years.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt argued that government economists had already projected that unemployment would reach six percent by that point.
“What is interesting about this is that Romney moved the goal posts in just a matter of weeks,” LaBolt told reporters.
“He said he was going to get it down to four percent several weeks ago. Now he says six percent.”
Romney’s message to a crowd of Hispanic American business leaders Wednesday was that the incumbent has not done nearly enough to help right the economic ship.
“This is a time when everybody in this administration should be doing everything in their power to support you,” he told the group, gathered just one block from the White House.
“Instead, sadly, President Obama has decided to attack success. It’s no wonder so many of his own supporters are calling on him to stop this war on job creators.”
The remarks were the strongest by Romney since Obama opened a bitter front in the election battle by declaring Monday that his rival’s record at the helm of private investment firm Bain Capital was fair game.
Obama’s reelection campaign last week rolled out new ads attacking Romney as a heartless corporate raider, but the spots triggered a backlash among some Democrats, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker who called the attacks on Bain “nauseating.”
Republican leaders pounced on the denunciations as proof that Obama was out of step with American support for the free market, and Romney pressed the point.
“Make no mistake. When I am president, you won’t wake up every day and wonder if the president is on your side,” Romney said.
The candidate was speaking to an audience of some 250 Hispanic Americans, a voting bloc Romney has struggled to win over.
A new national survey showed Romney and Obama locked in a tight contest, but among Latino voters Romney trails badly.
Obama holds a 61-27 percent lead among Latinos, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Romney’s hardline positions on immigration which he promoted during the Republican primaries may have turned off Hispanics, and he made no mention of immigration at the gathering.
Instead he focused on education reform, unveiling a plan he said will help millions by allowing federal education funds to follow every low-income or disabled child so he or she can attend any public or private school in the state.
“Here we are in the most prosperous nation, but millions of kids are getting a third-world education,” Romney said. “This is the civil-rights issue of our era.”
Romney also sought to turn the tables on Obama and his attacks on Bain, telling Time that “I’d like to also focus on his record.”
Obama insists Romney’s Bain stewardship is not only fair game but relevant to the economic anxieties of middle-class America.
“This is not a distraction, this is what the campaign is going to be about,” Obama said on Monday.
Team Romney welcomed the debate.
“We’re happy to compare governor Romney’s record of success — both at the statehouse in Massachusetts and as a businessman for 25 years in the private sector — to the lack of real world economy experience of President Obama,” senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters on a conference call.
Bain invested in about 100 firms while under Romney’s control, Fehrnstrom said.
“Some of them were struggling, some could not be saved. That’s the nature of our free enterprise system,” he said.