Gerald Herbert / AP
Published Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 | 12:16 p.m.
Updated Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 | 7:44 p.m.
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In his final campaign swing through Nevada before Republicans caucus on Saturday, Mitt Romney found himself fending off not attacks from his GOP primary opponents but a more nefarious campaign foe: positive economic news.
The reality of horse-race politics is that good news for one campaign is bad for another.
So, as he completed his tour of the Silver State—stopping in Sparks, Elko and finally Henderson —Romney gave about as much acknowledgement to Friday’s good labor market news as he did his GOP rivals.
To praise the lone ray of sunlight that pierced the gloomy economic skies he has spent the campaign trail pointing to would undermine the message he hopes to carry into the general election battle against President Obama.
“It’s good news. I hope it continues,” he told a roundtable of Northern Nevada business leaders referring to the report that the U.S. created jobs at its fastest pace in nine months. But, he said, “the recovery is slower than it should have been.”
Romney later told a crowd of workers at Western Nevada Supply, “I know the president didn’t cause the downturn, the recession. But he didn’t make it much better. In fact, he made it worse.”
By the time Romney made it the parking lot outside a Henderson pizza joint—after taking a jaunt to the Republican-heavy northeastern corner of the state—all he seemed to have left in him for the crowd of about 400 was a 10-minute version of his stump speech.
He even cut short the number of verses he typically recites from “America the Beautiful.”
“I love this country,” he told the cheering crowd. “I love its founding principles. I will do everything in my power to abide by those principles, to restore them, to make America the economic powerhouse it’s always been.”
Before jogging off stage to shake hands, Romney remembered to add: “Go out and caucus tomorrow! Go vote! Get out there.”
As with the crowd in Reno, not everyone at the Henderson rally had made up their mind quite yet, even with the caucus hours away.
“I’m basically trying to make a last minute decision,” said Bryan Lucero, a Henderson Republican. “I don’t want to see a definitive early decision for Romney. I want to see the primary go on a little longer so he’s better prepared for Obama.”
A spokesman for the Democratic Party, who attended Romney’s Henderson speech, countered that Romney offered little hope for an economic turnaround.
What we heard from Mitt Romney tonight is the same pro-Wall Street, anti-middle class agenda that we've come to expect from someone who has spent a lifetime shipping American jobs overseas and whose message to Nevadans losing their homes is that they're on their own,” Zac Petkanas said.
In Sparks, the business leaders, some of the biggest names in Northern Nevada industry, like construction company owner Norm Dianda and developer Perry DiLoreto, talked about their struggling businesses.
DiLoreto said he was concerned about “people tactically walking away from their homes. It’s very disturbing.”
He also said that he believed a leader needs to “change the tone” of politics, which starts in Washington and trickles down to the state and local level. “There’s a level of animosity that exists,” he said. “We need someone to help things settle down.”
Romney, in his short stump speech to workers, did not mention his GOP opponents, instead he maintained his general election stance.
He offered some conservative red meat - he wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank bank regulations and complained about “Obamacare” and appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.
Romney also said he learned how to work with Democrats as Massachusetts governor, where, he said 85 percent of the Legislature was Democratic. “I learned to work with both Republicans and Democrats,” he said.
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, during the roundtable, said Romney was the only presidential candidate to call after the Reno Air Race crash. He said he was pleased “when I picked up my cell phone and it was a call from you.”