Romney touts his business experience
Republican Mitt Romney portrayed himself as a Washington outsider bent on reforming government during a stop in Des Moines Tuesday, the opening day of his presidential campaign.
With a John Deere tractor in the background, the former Massachusetts governor said the federal government is in need of a transformation and argued he has the executive experience as a successful businessman and governor who could make those changes.
"To have government change and transform, to have innovation come into government, you've got to have somebody who's spent their lifetime innovating and transforming," he said.
Close to 300 supporters huddled inside the building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds where Romney appeared with his wife, Ann, and sons while snow blew outside.
During the speech, Romney highlighted his success of taking over the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and turning it around after it was plagued by scandal. He also touted his role in leading the state of Massachusetts out of a $3 billion budget hole he inherited when he took over as governor.
Romney took a hawkish stance in the speech, pledging his support for President Bush's plan to send more troops stabilize the situation in Iraq.
Romney said as the country looks at the face of radical jihad and the potential of nuclear proliferation, it must help lead the Muslim world to reject violence and extremism.
"I think we have to recognize that our military might in this country should not be defined by the whims of an ever-changing political agenda," Romney said. "We need to remember that the best ally of peace in the world is a strong America."
And he said as Iran tries to become a nuclear power, the U.S. will have to lead the civilized world against that effort.
"As a matter of fact, it's clear that in America we will not in any way engage with and negotiate with jihadists who are intent on destroying our nation, destroying our friends and destroying our way of life," Romney said to applause.
Romney kicked off his announcement tour in Michigan, the state where he was born, before traveling to the Iowa for the rally with supporters.
As he enters the race, Romney will face questions from social conservatives on the issues of gay rights and abortion. Romney had taken a strong pro-gay rights stance during his U.S. Senate campaign in 1994. More recently he has pushed for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. On abortion, he has changed his position and now calls himself "pro-life."
State Rep. Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf, is impressed with the health care reform initiative Romney pushed in Massachusetts, where all citizens are required to have health insurance.
"He does get it. He did a good job in Massachusetts, and I hope we can do nearly as good a job in Iowa," Miller said.
Miller said she wants to listen to all the candidates before choosing one, but is leaning toward Romney.
She is less concerned about Romney's former positions on gay rights and abortion.
"I think there's a lot of people in Iowa that are pretty willing to realize that we've all come from different backgrounds, and we've all changed positions on different items because we've gotten more information or the times have changed," Miller said.
Waterloo Republican Leon Mosley will stay neutral in the caucus fight because of his role as the co-chair of the Republican Party of Iowa.
But he agreed with Romney that the country should stand with Bush's decisions in Iraq.
"The worst thing that could happen is that we lose, and we come out with our tail between our legs," Mosley said.
Chuck Laudner, a Republican from Rockford, liked Romney's message of winning the global war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. He argues it will be the issue that separates Republicans from Democrats in the next presidential election.
"That's going to be the No. 1 issue today, tomorrow and in November of 2008," Laudner said.