By Justin Sink
Mitt Romney headed to North Carolina Friday, looking to make headway in a swing state Republicans are describing as increasingly attainable after President Obama's decision to endorse same-sex marriage.
The hastily arraigned speech — the owner of the pipe manufacturing factory who introduced Romney said that former Massachusetts governor's advance team had only reached out two days prior — drove at Romney's messaging on the economy.
Earlier Friday, Republican National Committee Political Director Rick Wiley circulated a memo predicting a looming "disaster" for Obama in the state, the site of the Democratic convention this summer. Wiley noted the retirement of high-profile Democratic lawmakers in the state, a sexual harassment scandal dogging the state Democratic Party leadership and the campaign finance corruption trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards in concluding that "the Tar Heel State is a major headache for Chicago."
But Romney, for his part, hammered away at his economic policies, a signal his campaign was hoping to capitalize on the same-sex marriage controversy without losing another day on the trail off his primary message. Romney was also looking to starve the brewing controversy about his high school pranks that targeted classmates who later revealed they were gay.
"The president's policies have not encouraged the economy to grow, they scared the dickens out of banks, they scared the dickens out of insurance companies," Romney said.
The presumptive Republican nominee used the plant's decision to manufacture PVC piping — in addition to the cast iron piping they had produced for decades — as an allegory for the need to adapt over time, arguing the president was mired in outdated liberal philosophy.
"Right now we're finding people across the country who are experiencing some hard times, and one of the reasons is that we had a president instilling the old liberal politics of the past," Romney said.
Romney went on to contend that the president's views on unions, offshore drilling and assuming national debt were outdated and incorrect.
"I see families struggling, kids coming out of school and can't find work, it's because of the wrong policies," Romney said.
The majority of Romney's remarks drew from the standard stump speech he has been delivering at stops across the country in recent weeks, but near the end of the remarks, Romney told the story of a niece whose husband was called to serve in the National Guard and whose daughter was deaf.
Romney explained that his niece could not afford landscaping but that her neighbors pitched in to help her sod her lawn and built a swing set for her daughter.
"This is the America that I love. This is a great people. We can do anything. We can achieve anything. We've got a government that has gotten in the way of the American people. We're going to change that in November," Romney concluded.
For a campaign struggling to personalize financial policy, it was a compelling moment and one Romney is likely to return to as he seeks to reorient the campaign around economic themes.