Lancaster New Era
One of the Republicans reportedly on Mitt Romney’s short list of potential running mates said President Barack Obama’s economic policies have failed the middle class, hurt small firms and created thousands of “discouraged workers” who have quit looking for jobs.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, rallying about 200 supporters at the Lancaster Farm and Home Center Monday afternoon, said those missteps mean Pennsylvania is in play for the party’s presidential nominee-in-waiting on Nov. 6.
“I’ve got a feeling Pennsylvania is going to be in the red column this year,” Portman said to cheers at the lunchtime rally, which was attended by many Republican committee members, local elected officials and reliable GOP voters.
“Pennsylvania voters are common-sense, conservative voters. They get it. They know our country is headed in the wrong direction,” Portman said. “They know we have an opportunity with Mitt Romney to turn things around, and Pennsylvania’s going to come through, isn’t it?”
Portman’s campaign stop here came as recent statewide polls have shown the contest tightening. A Susquehanna Polling & Research survey conducted for the Republican State Committee and released Friday showed Obama leading Romney 46 percent to 43 percent, less than the margin of error.
Other polls have shown Obama with leads of 4 percentage points and 6 percentage points in Pennsylvania, where there are more than 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Local Democrats who support Obama met with reporters before the rally to explain why they believe a Romney presidency would halt the economic progress made over the past three and a half years.
Brian Frailey, who owns DogStar Books in Lancaster, said his small business is, in fact, better off than it was four years ago, thanks largely to the payroll tax cuts that put money into the hands of consumers.
“I’m alive. My business is alive,” said Frailey, who is 45 and is the sole employee at his 401 W. Lemon St. bookstore. He said the economy “is a lot better than Republicans are trying to paint it. A recovery like this, it’s not a sprint. It’s a steady, steady recovery.”
“I think if you’re a small business, you have to be kind of afraid of a Romney presidency.”
He said he does not agree with Romney on the issue of continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because the impact would not trickle down to the middle class. He said the result would be the loss of jobs here to overseas firms.
Frailey said Obama has shown “level-headed” leadership during difficult economic times.
“I think a lot of us were encouraged by his we’re-going-to-get-through-this leadership,” he said.
At the rally, many Republicans were curious about the man said to be on Romney’s short list of potential running mates, though few said the former Massachusetts governor’s choice of a running mate would sway their decision.
“My opinion is it really doesn’t matter who Mitt picks as a running mate,” said Ed Agnew, 60, who traveled to Lancaster from Reading. “I couldn’t be motivated to not vote for Romney.”
Such strident support for the party’s eventual nominee is what the campaign is hoping for in 98 days.
Portman sought to capitalize on Obama’s own statements about the private sector — first, that it’s “doing fine” and, most recently, that the government plays a role in providing a stable environment in which businesses can thrive.
Portman instead portrayed government and its regulations as obstacles to small business.
“So the president says, ‘You know what? If you have a business, you didn’t build it. Someone else did.’
“And that speech, you recall, is about the government building it, and that speech was about the fact that those small businesses who think they built it should be paying more taxes because, after all, the government built them.
“Now, that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to the people I was just talking to. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. When the president said that — ‘You didn’t build that business. Somebody else did.’ — I thought about all the small business owners I know in my hometown of Cincinnati, across Ohio. I thought about my dad,” said Portman, whose father left a job to start his own firm.
” … This is what’s happening all over America to create opportunity, and yet the president is telling those people, ‘You didn’t do it’?” Portman said. “We should be doing just the opposite in government. We should be holding those people up. We should be telling them that they are the backbone of our economy and that we respect them.”
Portman’s remarks echoed a familiar line of attack by the Romney campaign in recent days, even though independent fact-checkers have shown that Obama’s remarks are being taken out of context.
The president’s campaign has said his original, much lengthier comments were intended to show that government can foster an environment conducive to business success.
“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own,” Obama said. “I’m always struck by people who think, ‘Well, it must be because I was just so smart.’ There are a lot of smart people out there. ‘It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.’
“Let me tell you something: There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.”
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