Mitt Romney criticized President Obama for dividing the nation with his State of the Union on Tuesday, hours before the president was to deliver his speech.
Romney, offering a preview of Obama’s speech, knocked Obama as a “campaigner in chief” using his address to trump up his reelection bid.
Obama is expected to call for tax reforms to ensure wealthier taxpayers pay a higher tax rate, an argument intended to resonate in a possible reelection battle with Romney, a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.
Romney released tax forms Tuesday that show he pays a rate less than 15 percent. Most of his income is capital gains that is subject to a 15 percent rate. Democrats and Republican rivals such as Newt Gingrich, who trounced Romney in the South Carolina primary Saturday, had pressed Romney to release the returns.
Romney’s campaign billed his speech in Tampa, Fla., as a “prebuttal,” and the former Massachusetts governor used it to highlight what a Romney State of the Union address might look like.
“If tonight were the first message to Congress in a Romney administration, I’d have the courage to tell the American people how it is and tell Congress what we really need to do,” said an energetic Romney, who wore a jacket but no tie. “I wouldn’t spend my time blaming others for how we got in this mess; I’d explain how we’re going to get out of it.”
Romney delivered the address at an empty plant owned by the National Gypsum Company to highlight what he characterized as Obama’s failed handling of the economy.
“In a normal recovery under strong leadership, [this plant] could now be full of workers,” he said. “This is the real state of our union. But you won’t hear stories like these in President Obama’s address tonight. The unemployed don’t get invitations to sit with the first lady.”
Billionaire Warren Buffett’s secretary will sit with the first lady during the address.
Romney also criticized Obama for rejecting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
“The Keystone pipeline is a real ‘shovel-ready’ project that would put 20,000 Americans back to work,” Romney said, using a phrase associated with the 2009 economic stimulus bill championed by Obama.
Romney called Obama “wrong” for rejecting the controversial oil sands pipeline project, and promised to approve it.
Romney’s message also aligned with that of House Republicans, who have been blasting Obama ahead of the speech, using the number “1,000 days.”
“If I were speaking to Congress tonight, I’d note that it’s now been 1,000 days since the Senate last passed a budget,” Romney said. “That’s irresponsible. It’s unacceptable. And, as president, I will cut spending, cap spending and finally balance the budget.
“Tonight, the president will do what he does best. He will give a nice speech with a lot of memorable phrases. But he won’t give you the hard numbers. Three years ago, we measured candidate Obama by his hopeful promises and slogans. Today, President Obama has amassed an actual record of debt, decline and disappointment. … What he’s really offering are partisan planks for his reelection campaign.”