Romney takes aim at Obama, Clinton in Mississippi
Jan. 29, 2015
STARKVILLE, Mississippi (AP) — Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, looked and sounded like a candidate once again during a stop Wednesday in Mississippi, delivering a speech that questioned Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton's foreign policy and economic credentials.
His time at Mississippi State University marked Romney's third public appearance since he revealed earlier this month that he's considering another presidential run.
"I'm thinking about how I can help the country," he told hundreds of students Wednesday night.
In his comeback bid, Romney has focused particular attention on the poor and middle class as he tries to broaden his appeal after being cast in 2012 as an out-of-touch multimillionaire.
"How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place?" Romney said, squarely attacking the Democrats' potential 2016 nominee.
"We need to restore opportunity, particularly for the middle class," Romney said. "You deserve a job that can repay all you've spent and borrowed to go to college."
A Clinton spokesman did not immediately respond to Romney's remarks, although the Democratic National Committee fired back.
"We don't really need to hear a lecture on 'where jobs come from' from a guy who's best known for bankrupting companies and profiting off of outsourcing," DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee said.
Before his evening address on campus, Romney stopped at the popular barbecue joint Little Dooey, bounding out of a black sport-utility vehicle to shake hands with employees, townspeople and students.
In his address, Romney outlined three principles that could serve as the foundation of a campaign: national security, improving opportunities for the middle class and ending poverty. The latter two principles are newly prominent for Romney, and he's explained them with references to his personal faith and work in the Mormon church — personal testimony he didn't always offer in 2008 and 2012.
In previous campaigns, Romney fueled his critics with high-profile missteps tied in some way to money. No gaffe was bigger than his remark — secretly recorded at a high-dollar Florida fundraiser — that he didn't worry about the 47 percent of Americans who "believe they are victims" and "pay no income tax."
On Wednesday night, he managed to joke about his wealth, insisting his public life isn't about generating attention or speaking fees. "As you may have heard," he said, "I'm already rich."
At Mississippi State, Romney sidestepped any mention of his would-be Republican rivals, instead using Clinton and Obama as foils.
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation," Romney says. "We need to help make the world a safer place."
Romney has acknowledged privately in recent weeks that he will make a decision about the 2016 campaign soon. While he was the overwhelming establishment favorite in the last election, the likely 2016 field includes other economic conservatives, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who have taken steps toward campaigns of their own.
Associated Press reporters Steve Peoples and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report Washington, D.C.