GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited the Bay Area Sunday for three separate fundraisers. The following is an excerpt from the Political Blotter blog, covering Romney's campaign stop in San Francisco. Read more at www.ibabuzz.com/politics.
5:32 p.m.: Mitt Romney enters the Fairmont Hotel's Gold room
Mitt Romney entered the Fairmont Hotel's Gold room at 5:32 p.m. to a cheering, standing ovation. About 250 attendees had been sipping drinks and noshing on shrimp cocktails.
Boyd Smith of Palo Alto -- real estate development and investment mogul, a former Mormon stake president, and finance chairman for Romney's campaign in California -- before introducing Romney called for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Aurora, Colo., massacre and their families. He said America is at one of its most important moments, in "a war of ideas, a war of philosophy -- it's a war that can be won however, by using that analogy, if Mitt Romney is our general. ... I consider myself, and am proud to be a foot-soldier. I ask you to join me."
5:38 p.m.: Romney begins speaking
"Our hearts are with the many people who've lost loved ones in Colorado," he said, adding President Obama's visit to Aurora was entirely appropriate and promising to deliver less partisan remarks today given the nation's mourning.
"We turn to a power greater than our own to understand purpose and if not to understand at least to be able to soothe the wounds of those who have been so seriously hurt," he said.
Romney noted a gathering in the audience of Gold Star and Blue Star families -- those who've lost relatives in military service, and those who have relatives currently serving, respectively. He had them stand, and they were given applause. Romney noted "the great sense of unity that comes in this country as we recognize those who serve our country."
Romney told a story from his time as governor, of going to Boston's airport to meet a servicemember's casket as it was returned from a battlefield; people lined up several deep at the airport's windows. "Every single person had a hand on their heart" and expressions of appreciation on their faces, he said.
Turning to the economy, Romney said "these are tough times and even people working are having real tough times trying to make ends meet." Consumer confidence is down, and economic growth is sluggish, he said.
Why run for president when things are so tough? "The answer is: I think I can fix it."
"I've had the unusual experience in my life of working in places that were troubled," he said, from a struggling company to a floundering Salt Lake City Olympics, to a troubled state as governor.
"Boy, somebody's got to do something for California," he said, earning laughter and applause. "California's got to make a couple of tough decisions; the right leadership would make a difference here."
"We are a hard working energetic patriotic risk-taking entrepreneurial people," he said, praising those who strive to work or seek more education to get better jobs; he told several anecdotes about people who've built their own business in lawn-mowing, upholstery and other fields. "There is that entrepreneurialism in the American spirit which if tapped will allow us to reboot our economy, and soon."
To do so, Romney said he would "take advantage of our energy resources ... this is our ace in the hole." America has "massive new resources, both in oil and gas" which must be tapped, he said. "We have energy in massive amounts," he said, citing an article he saw that said "America can be the largest energy producer in the world."
Second, Romney said, he would pursue more foreign trade, which he said "puts more Americans to work in higher-paying jobs."
"Number three, you've got to finally balance our budget, you can't keep spending more money than you take it," Romney said, adding "real leadership" in Congress and the White House would immediately end any talk of America being in decline.
He said former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken of building human capital as well as financial capital in order to strengthen the economy, but that can't be accomplished if schools are underperforming. Romney singled out Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, California's 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee — who got a brief standing ovation — to report from the back of the room that California ranks toward the bottom of the nation in academic performance.
"That's got to change, and that's number four in my plan to get America working again," he said.
And fifth, he said, "We have restore economic freedom in this country." The founding fathers knew freedom comes from God, not government, and that freedom includes life and liberty — protected by our servicemembers — as well as the pursuit of happiness, the opportunity to pursue our own dreams. "This is a free land."
Romney said he was with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — rumored to be on his short list of potential vice presidential running mates — the other day, discussing what it was like to be an immigrant family in Florida, an embrace of the American dream of working hard and taking risks to attain one's dreams.
"I love this country, I love America, I love the principles on which America was founded, I want to restore those principles," he said, noting 23 million people are out of work or have stopped looking. "These are real human beings, our fellow citizens. ... We need to put them back to work."
"I'm going to get the job done. I'm going to do it. We're going to do it together," he said, as the crowd rose to its feet in applause.
He said former British prime minister Tony Blair told him that what the world fears most is a weak America. "American strength is the best ally peace has ever known," Romney said.
America has a duty to hold aloft a torch of freedom and opportunity, he said, and as the "Greatest Generation" of World War II fades away, it's up to use to take up that torch.
"This is the time for us to step forward and take that torch," he said.
6:07 p.m.: Romney concludes his remarks