Republican contender Mitt Romney sought to get his White House campaign back on track on Tuesday by launching a “prebuttal” to US President Barack Obama's upcoming State of the Union address.
Romney on Tuesday told a crowd of several hundred handpicked supporters that Obama’s policies have slowed the nation’s economic recovery.
He predicted Obama will use his State of the Union address to "offer a falsely rosy view of the economy" and "hiding the truth of high unemployment and foreclosure rates" in what Romney said would be the opening salvo of Obama’s own reelection effort.
“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,” Romney said
He charged the president’s plans sound less like “built to last”—a phrase Obama will reportedly use to talk about solidifying the position of the middle class—and more like "doomed to fail.”
“What he’s proposing is more of the same: more taxes, more spending, and more regulation. And all of his proposals involve “big” government and “big” price tags,” he said.
Instead, Romney promised that should he be elected he would “have the courage to tell the American people how it is.”
Romney's broadside at Obama has been widely taken as an attempt to break from his previous tepid campaign tactics, which have been described by some Republican detractors as "being the least objectionable candidate with the best haircut."
Romney, the former GOP front-runner, was stung by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 12-point victory in the South Carolina primary last week.
In the aftermath, Romney took the decision to go negative and come out swinging against the from-the-hip Gingrich who has him on the ropes with a Rasmussen poll showing Gingrich ahead by 9 percentage points in Florida, while an Insider Advantage poll gave him an 8-point edge.
Romney attacked Gingrich in a Florida debate Monday night, calling him an unreliable leader who traded on his time in Washington to become an influence peddler. The assault underscored the race for the GOP nomination has turned into a two-man street fight.
“The speaker was given the opportunity to be the leader of our party in 1994, and at the end of four years, he had to resign in disgrace,” Romney said.
Romney also criticized Gingrich for his work for troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac, his ethics troubles in Congress and for lobbying Republican lawmakers on health issues while getting paid by healthcare companies.
“Much of Newt’s momentum has been fueled by his debate performances,” Republican strategist Todd Harris said. “When Romney even debates him to a draw, it’s got to be viewed as a good night for Romney.”
Gingrich refused to engage Romney during many of his attacks in the debate, but again denied he had been a lobbyist for Freddie Mac and accused Romney of distorting his record.
“He may have made a good financier. He’s a terrible historian,” he said of Romney.
The newly aggressive Romney has a hectic schedule on Tuesday as he tries to make up ground on Gingrich, including his offered “prebuttal” to Obama’s State of the Union address.
Whether the GOP base will accept the staid Romney of the "don't upset the applecart" has become a scrappy fighter capable of taking on the incumbent Obama remains to be seen.