Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney harshly criticized President Barack Obama and his allies, saying they are stooping to new lows that demean the office of the presidency and take attention away from issues such as jobs and the economy.
“Over the last four years, this president has pushed Republicans and Democrats about as far apart as they can go,” Romney said in an 18 minute speech to 5,400 supporters in front of the historic Ross County Courthouse. “And now he and his allies are pushing us all even further apart by dividing us into groups. He demonizes some. He panders to others. His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51 percent of the pieces.”
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt called the comments ”unhinged, and particularly strange coming at a time when he’s pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false.”
Vice President Joe Biden sparked a campaign commotion Tuesday, telling an audience in southern Virginia that included hundreds of black voters that Romney wanted to put them “back in chains” by deregulating Wall Street. He later mocked Republican criticism over the remark while conceding he meant to use the term “unshackled”.
Campaigning in Danville, Biden said the Republican ticket wanted to “unchain Wall Street” by getting rid of regulations Obama signed into law two years ago. He added: “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”
Romney called Biden’s comment “another outrageous charge.”
The Romney rally capped off a bus tour through key swing states — North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio.
Romney promised to repeal the federal health care law, which is modeled after a program he implemented as governor of Massachusetts. Romney also said a Romney-Ryan administration will work toward energy independence, quality public education that isn’t under the control of union bosses, trade policies that work for America, support for small businesses, and cutting federal spending to put America on track for balanced budgets.
On Saturday, Romney named Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., as his running mate, bypassing Ohio native son U.S. Sen. Rob Portman who had been on the short list. Portman and Gov. John Kasich stumped with Romney across Ohio on Tuesday.
Ryan is scheduled to hold a rally in Oxford at his alma mater, Miami University, on Wednesday evening.
As House Budget Committee Chairman, Ryan has proposed a federal budget that would cut trillions of dollars in spending in part by shifting Medicaid responsibility largely to states and limiting its growth. Currently, Medicaid is a state and federally funded health care program for the poor and disabled, including more than 2 million Ohioans.
The Ryan plan would change Medicare, the health care program for seniors, for anyone enrolling after 2023 by bumping up the eligibility ages and it would shift Medicare to a voucher system based on the cost of health care in a particular region.
Tony Eallonardo, a school teacher in Chillicothe, said he likes Ryan and his budget plans. As far as Romney’s decision to pass over Portman, Eallonardo said “It would’ve been great to have an Ohioan on the ticket but I was worried about (U.S. Sen. Marco) Rubio or Portman leaving the Senate … because we need the Senate so bad too.”
In downtown Chillicothe, about 50 protesters shouted their displeasure at the Romney-Ryan agenda when it comes to tax policy and Medicare. Teresa Law of Springfield, who led the protesters in chants like “Hands off Medicare,” said she is worried that her elderly home health care clients won’t be able to navigate a voucher system or afford higher costs for health care. “I don’t buy their Medicare plan. I do not buy that these vouchers are the way to go and I work for the elderly,” she said.
Law said Romney’s pick of Ryan for vice president is to appeal to conservative Tea Party voters. “I don’t like the far right or the far left. The Tea Party is too far right. Nobody on the far right or the far left is going to satisfy Americans. There are too many of us and we’re too diverse,” she said. “Compromise. That’s what this country should be about.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.