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Romney aims criticism at president

Energy policy, deficit reduction and grits.

     All three were on the mind of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney at a Jackson campaign stop Friday, though one of the three seems a recent addition to Romney’s stump speech.

     Introduced by Gov. Phil Bryant, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, tried to get in touch with some Southern style under Bryant’s instruction.

     “The governor said I had to say it right: ‘Mornin’ y’all,'” Romney said.

     The frontrunner in the Republican presidential race continued, “I got started right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits.”

     Romney quickly moved on to more familiar campaign rhetoric, highlighting his presidential plans and ignoring his Republican rivals in favor of hitting President Barack Obama hard.

     “This is a battle for the soul of America,” Romney said. “If we were to re-elect President Obama, this nation is going to change in ways we would hardly recognize.”

     Among the changes Romney sees as likely are an increasingly intrusive federal government he believes harmful to free enterprise.

     Jobs were also on Romney’s mind, as he highlighted the unemployment rate, which has most recently been reported at 8.5 percent. Given the president’s performance, Romney believes Obama will soon be joining the unemployment lines.

     “Obama is out of ideas, out of excuses and will be out of a job, ” Romney told voters voters at the town hall style rally at the Jackson Farmers Market – an appropriate venue for the rally, according to Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde-Smith, of Brookhaven.

     “This is where job creation begins,” Hyde-Smith said of agriculture.

     Romney further blamed Obama administration regulations with strangling job-creating industries.

     He allowed that some regulations are necessary, but dismissed the need for many others. He pointed to China as a positive counterexample.

     “It’s pretty impressive over there how quickly they can build things, how productive they are as a society,” Romney said, claiming its regulatory environment is more business-friendly.

     However, Romney emphasized that job creation must take place in the private sector and criticized the government bailouts of U.S. automakers General Motors and Chrysler.

     “I think when enterprise goes into bankruptcy, we should go along and not bring in the heavy hand of government and put our finger on the scale,” Romney said.

     Romney’s criticism of auto bailouts was in part prompted by a question from the audience addressing the loss of some retirement benefits to non-union employees during Delphi Automotive’s bankruptcy, a loss that affected Delphi employees in Mississippi and elsewhere.

      The questioner asked what Romney could do to rectify the situation.

     “I will see what opportunity exists to ensure you are treated fairly,” replied Romney.

     Romney laid out plans to reduce federal spending, but cutting funding for some federal programs including Amtrak and PBS. He also repeated his campaign promise to scuttle on his first day in office the Obama-supported healthcare reform act.

     One place Romney said he plans no cuts, however, is military spending.

     “The one place where he’s most comfortable cutting spending is the military, where we most need to protect ourselves,” Romney said of Obama’s proposed reductions in defense spending, which accounted for about 19 percent of the federal budget in Fiscal Year 2011.

     Romney’s Jackson campaign rally Friday followed a campaign stop in Pascagoula Thursday. Romney continues to face GOP primary opposition from Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, all of whom will be on the ballot in Mississippi’s primary Tuesday.