Written By Ben Griffiths, Contributing Writer
Speaking to a gathering of the Independence Hall Tea Party at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute on Monday night, Mitt Romney set the stage for his charge to the White House, blasting President Obama for failed economic policies and driving home a vision of a consumer-driven free economy for America.
“The president says he wants to transform America,” Romney said before a boisterous crowd of several hundred tea partiers. “I don’t want to transform America; I want to restore to America to the principles that made us the hope of the earth.”
The event, which was advertised as the Tea Party group’s “Tax Day Tea Summit,” also featured remarks from four candidates running for the GOP Senate nomination, including David Christian, Sam Rohrer, Marc Scaringi and Tom Smith.
But the main event was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who entered Franklin Hall to enthusiastic applause and chants of “Go Mitt, go.”
The former Massachusetts governor criticized Obama’s proposed Buffet Rule, which would implement a 30 percent minimum on those individuals with a yearly salary of over a million dollars.
“Someone calculated that the taxes he would raise from this Buffet Rule would pay for 11 hours of government,” Romney said. “This man is out of ideas, he’s out of excuses and in 2012 we’re going to make sure he gets put out of office.”
A marble statue of Ben Franklin towering beside him, Romney talked about the principles instilled by the founders of America that “made us exceptional and changed the world.”
“They said the creator endowed us with our rights, not the government, not the king, not the state, but the creator,” said Romney to loud applause.
This crowd pleasing reference to religious freedom led Romney into one of the central points of his speech, the Obama administration’s “war on economic freedom.” He cited the current administration’s deficits, taxes and over-regulation as detractors from free enterprise, specifically referencing the denied Keystone Pipeline proposal that would have brought crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
“We built an interstate highway system once, we built the Hoover Dam; today we can’t even build a pipeline for Pete’s sake,” said Romney to laughter, cheers and whistles.
Possibly the loudest ovation of the night came when Romney spoke about his goal to cut government spending and balance the budget, saying that “Obamacare” is “first on the list.”
“President Obama thinks the economy is struggling because the stimulus wasn’t big enough,” he said. “The economy is struggling because government is too big and we’re going to bring it down to size.”
As a chorus of boos rose from the crowd, Romney hammered Obama for catering to special interests like private sector unions, while not opening up new markets for American goods.
“I don’t know if there has been a presidency that’s been more attuned to the people that provide money to his party,” he said.
Though Romney’s primary opponents cast him as too moderate, the mood from start to finish on Monday night was one of rallying around their man. A brief and noisy interruption from protesters sequestered outside the doors of Franklin Hall did not dampen spirits inside, as the crowd left energized by Romney’s appearance.
“We need to cut spending and stop taxing,” said a Romney button-wearing Rick Martin. “He’s our man.”