04/11/12 – Romney Town Hall

041112-romneytownhall-featured

5:55 p.m.

So, I’m waiting to get in to Mitt Romney’s town hall at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, and I’m thinking I should have covered the State House. After a while of waiting in line (some big concert must be going on, here, at the same time as the Romney event or something), I was about to go through the metal detector when a woman pulled me out of line.

Apparently, press gets different treatment than the average public at these events.

So, I waited another 15 minutes for a bomb-sniffing dog to come ignore my backpack. Meanwhile, local politicians moved through the regular line, including Brendan Doherty, some RI House Republicans, and a few other notables. Ultimately, I was able to pass on in as if I might not be the suspicious type.

Fire Marshal, and Brendan Doherty, Too

6:17 p.m.
Given the slow rate at which they’re managing to fill the seats, perhaps it would have been wise for the announcements to say something like, “arrive early.” I don’t think the campaign adequately appreciated that this is Rhode Island. We don’t expect lines to get into political events, here.

Waiting for Romney 1

Waiting for Romney 2

Here are Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, and GOP Chairman Mark Zaccaria.

Conspiring While Waiting for Romney

There were actually two stages for entry: a very long general-public line, followed by the smaller line to the security check. VIPs (and press) were able to bypass stage one. At that point, it was a big, egalitarian wait. Even Doherty, though offered the option of cutting, waited in line.

6:26 p.m.
It’s always fascinating to observe the interactions of the professional journalists. (At some point, I suppose I should start using the phrase, “other professional journalists.”) I’ve been doing this stuff as a hobby for so long, it’s easy to forget that this is actually a job for some folks.

The Professional Journalists

They’re chatting amongst themselves, some of them working the press area, trying to make new connections and renew transient relationships.

Me, I’m wondering what mischief the folks at the State House are up to.

6:38 p.m.
So, I see that the bill that would allow National Grid to pass losses from delinquent customers on to everybody else was on the RI Senate’s agenda, but it isn’t listed with the other votes. Wonder why that is.

(That’s the one that caused such a stir on the House floor, last week, with leadership losing the vote.)

6:46 p.m.
WPRI’s Ted Nesi, in the press pool, here, tells me Paiva Weed pulled the bill at the last minute.

6:47 p.m.
I’m also wondering what happened in the Senate Special Legislation Committee, which took up a handful of constitutional bills affecting the General Assembly, like term limits and healthcare co-pays.

Meanwhile, there was a municipal binding arbitration bill in Senate Labor.

I’ll tell you that it did take a great deal of deliberation and discussion with wonky peers before I decided to come experience national politics firsthand, rather than set my video camera in a room that would otherwise be logged in the manner of, “Vote taken. Discussion of next bill.”

6:51 p.m.
The crowd just had a round of rhythmic clapping as if they’d been prompted to get rowdy for the star, but it turned out to be impatience.

This is a long time to keep people waiting for a quick stop-by speech.

The soundtrack running in the background, by the way, is unsurprising. U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”; Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America”; John Mellencamp; et cetera.

6:56 p.m.
Former RI gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille is introducing Romney. He joked at the beginning that he’s announcing tonight that he’s not running…. for president.

Obama’s policies are “malarky,” says Robitaille. A national press guy behind me snickered at his word choice.

7:00 p.m.
Local businesswoman Rodney Benjamin is talking about Romney’s business savvy (gleaned from a few minutes backstage, it seems).

Romney enters, with local GOP women filling the seats behind him, from the press-box point of view.

Romney Enters

7:01 p.m.
Romney: “I’m from Massachusetts, and you must have a border security problem.”

Shout out for former RI Gov. Don Carcieri.

7:03 p.m.
He’s going to be happy, he says, to sleep in his own bed tonight. (For anybody reading from elsewhere in the country, Massachusetts and Rhode Island might as well be neighboring counties.)

“Americans will do what’s necessary to provide for their families.”

7:05 p.m.
He’s contrasting Obama’s high opinion of his own presidency with the suffering of regular Americans.

“The real war on women has been waged by this president’s failed economic policies.”

Says 92% of jobs lost during President Obama’s term were lost to women.

7:06 p.m.
“The stimulus protected government, but it did not encourage or stimulate the private sector.”

7:07 p.m.
Says whatever economic improvement there has been hasn’t been due to government, but due to the innovation of Americans.

“Do you think ObamaCare will encourage businesses to hire?”

Overall, he says, the President’s policies have kept the economy from recovering.

On Obama: “He’s going to do everything he can to distract Americans from his record.”

“Blaming has always been his favorite vehicle. Every day I’m surprised at his creativity.”

Mitt Romney

7:11 a.m.
Standing ovation. “It is time to stop dividing America. It is time to stop denigrating success.”

Romney says that one thing he can agree with Obama on is that this is going to be a “defining election.”

Government consumes 38% of the economy; with ObamaCare, it’ll be 50%. “At what point do you stop being a free economy?”

“This is where he’s leading us: to a nation dominated by the government.”

7:13 p.m.
“Europe doesn’t work in Europe. I don’t want it here.”

7:14 p.m.
Reference to the 10th Amendment, reserving rights for the states and the people.

7:15 p.m.
Romney: America was the place that people could take risks and try things. Most didn’t work, but many did. That was the strong point of the U.S.

Mentioned Internet technology, including Tweets… not sure I’m enthusiastic about that one…

7:16 p.m.
“I think when we hear the President say he wants to raise more taxes, we’re going to say, ‘You’ve got enough.'”

Romney: We’re going to say “no” to new debt, regulations, micromanagement of American life and economy.

We’re going to pursue all sorts of energy. “We’re going to build that pipeline from Canada, too.”

7:18 p.m.
Romney: The one place Obama is willing to cut is the military, as if the world is a safer place. Says our Navy hasn’t been this low for about a century (if I heard right).

“If I were president, I’d take our shipping not down, but from 9 to 17.” Would add to troops and “make sure our veterans get the care that they deserve.”

7:19 p.m.
“We need a military so strong that noone would think of testing it.”

“This President takes in a very strange direction, in my view.”

7:20 p.m.
Now he’s going to take questions.

First question, from Tina Jackson, a local Republican in the fishing industry: This administration is picking winners and losers. When you do become President, I’m hopeful that you’ll support the fishing industry.

Romney: “Government bureaucrats think they know a lot more than the fishermen about what’s under the sea.”

7:22 p.m.
Romney: There’s a view in government that most of “us rubes” don’t know a think about our industries. They like the economy, but not businesses. “My job as president” will be to make sure that “there’s so much hiring going on that there’s greater competition to get people,” which will raise wages.

“This is how it works. The folks in government think they have to be the ones to increase jobs.”

7:23 p.m.
He refers to a discussion about a berm to protect Providence, RI, from flooding, but government can’t get anything done.

Question 2: Her concern is that (recalling Gov. Christie) Americans spend too much time on their couches.

Romney: “There will be people who will vote for the candidate who promises he will give them more stuff.” Says he’s not their guy.

7:26 p.m.
Referred to a substitute teacher who can’t afford (with gas prices) to go back and forth to work. (As the husband of a former substitute, I can attest to that possibility…)

“We want a leader who asks us to help America.” Reference to JFK.

7:27 p.m.
RI Rep. Doreen Costa (R, North Kingstown) mentioned RI’s illegal immigration debates (e.g., in-state college tuition). Asks for Romney’s advice.

Doreen Costa Asks Romney About Illegal Immigration

First thing you can do, he says, is elect another president. He noted that the Democrats controlled the government and offered no solutions. [A wag might suggest that they’re driving out illegal immigrants through a down economy.]

Romney would build a fence, patrol the border, implement programs like E-Verify.

“We want people, but we want them to come here legally. And we like it when they speak English.” Qualifies that it doesn’t mean they can’t continue to speak their own languages.

7:30 p.m.
For legal immigrants who graduate from U.S. colleges: “I’d staple a green card to the diploma.”

7:31 p.m.
The next questioner is apparently wearing interesting pants (something about having a dragon on them). He’s a manufacturer and is asking about offshoring; small companies don’t have the resources to do that. How do you bring the jobs back?

“Make this the most attractive place for manufacturing and other employers. You do that by looking at what the President outlines and do the opposite.”

Moves into tax policy. “This is going to get a little arcane.”

“54% of American workers work in flow-through businesses that file as individuals.” So if you raise that rate, you raise it on businesses.

He wants to take everybody’s rate down, eliminating high-end deductions so it remains “progressive.”

7:33 p.m.
He wants a strong economy so we can afford a strong military.

“I like trade.” “If someone cheats in trade, you hold them accountable. China has been cheating.” “They not only steal intellectual property, but then they also break into computers and steal secrets. And then they hold down the value of their currency.”

“I will label China as a currency manipulator.”

Next question from Senate candidate Barry Hinkley: Mentions Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (audience boos) and the Buffett Rule. How do you “hit back” on that?

Romney: By looking at his record and arguing that taxes and other Obama policies won’t grow the economy.

“This president’s incentive, right now, is to divide Americans and to deflect” awareness that “he’s failed.”

7:37 p.m.
Next question: What policies can immediately reduce government?

Romney: Three ways to do that: 1) Eliminate programs (“I’m going to ask for sacrifice, but not the sacrifice that comes out of your wallet.” Instead, less free stuff. First thing, ObamaCare (“that’s $100 billion per year”).

2) Many programs are growing at incredible rates. He’ll send them back to the states and the feds will give aid at inflation. Saves another $100 billion.

3) Would shrink government workforce by 10% through attrition.

“And that’s just a little, by the way.”

7:40 p.m.
As an example, he’s describing the reduction in the number of ships that the Navy is commissioning, but the number of administrators for that has been increasing. “The problem is, they’re not just costing money, but they’re doing something. They’re slowing things down.”

Wants to link public-sector pay to private-sector pay. Another $47 billion per year.

He’s going to reduce the budget by $500 billion per year.

Question: Would you consider Santorum as a vice president?

Romney: “Everybody’s on my list”; actually he doesn’t have a list yet. The people whom he’s run against would certainly be on it.

“If any of you have any ideas, just pass them along.”

7:43 p.m.
Scott Bilderman, a town council member in Hopkinton: Reference to 10th amendment. What would you do to cut red tape?

Romney: Get rid of regulations. On day one, he’s going to issue an executive order to eliminate Obama Era regulations.

“Having been a governor made me appreciate that states were not an afterthought of the founders.”

Emphasizes that they’re called “states,” not “provinces.” They’re supposed to have real power.

7:45 p.m.
“I recognize the power of states competing with one another. What a marvelous idea?”

“Gosh, your former governor Carcieri stole some jobs from Massachusetts.”

Mentions Gov. Arnold put up billboards of himself showing muscles saying “come to California.” Romney says he put up billboards in CA saying, “Smaller muscles, lower taxes, come to Massachusetts.”

7:47 p.m.
Exits to “I Was Born Free” by Kid Rock.



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