Governors join Romney at Basalt visit
BASALT—A sign in the Basalt High School Longhorns gym proclaims “Welcome to the Big House.”
The gym proved big enough Thursday to accommodate presidential candidate Mitt Romney and 10 Republican governors along with a crowd of several hundred, but not hundreds more who were forced to remain outside during the spirited campaign event for Romney.
Romney and the governors touted the economic accomplishments they say have been made in states led by Republicans, and said Romney is needed in the White House to implement the same policies nationally.
Focusing on the economy and related issues such as energy and education, Romney said President Obama has failed in areas from job creation to deficit reduction.
“By his own measures this is a president whose policy has not been successful,” Romney said.
Speakers ranging from Texas Gov. and former Romney primary rival Rick Perry to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell all addressed the crowd. With the latter three among names mentioned as possible picks by Romney to be his running mate, the crowd may have been getting a glimpse at an imminent vice presidential candidate as well.
Said Christie, “The president of the United States has been like a man walking around in a dark room looking for the light switch of leadership for the last four years. He hasn’t found it yet. He’s not going to find it in the next two months.”
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer touted the importance of small business, tax reform, targeting runaway regulation and making government smaller as she argued that Romney’s the man to emphasize such priorities in Washington, D.C.
“We need a president that believes in a free enterprise system and we need a president that can deliver the goods,” she said.
Republican governors had come to Aspen this week for meetings and public speeches, and reportedly for fundraising. Romney joined them after first making an appearance in Jefferson County.
Other governors speaking in Basalt Thursday were Gary Herbert of Utah, Matt Mead of Wyoming, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma.
They came to a state that’s believed to be up for grabs between Obama and Romney in November, making it the focus of heavy campaigning. Obama is scheduled to visit Grand Junction Wednesday.
The Roaring Fork Valley is far from a conservative stronghold, but anti-Romney elements were few in number at the event.
“I think everybody just figured, nobody’s going to change any minds,” said Barb Coddington of Glenwood Springs, who held up a sign outside the school urging Romney to pack up his Republican governor “stooges and go home. “
“I looked up ‘stooges.’ That’s the perfect word for them,” she said.
For many who attended, however, the Republican economic message being touted by Romney and his party’s governors appeared to be resonating.
“If it works for the states, for these governors, it should work nationwide,” said Basalt resident Dave Wolff.
He and his wife Elly weren’t able to get inside the gym, but were among some left outside who said they were still glad they went, particularly once a speaker was set up outside so they could hear.
Mark Gould, owner of Gould Construction in Glenwood Springs, showed up with about 20 of his workers at the behest of the Romney campaign, and sat behind Romney and the governors during the event. Gould said he likes Romney’s focus on getting people back to work, and the fact that he has owned a business and dealt with the risks and worries involved.
“Not everybody knows what it’s like to make payroll,” he said.
During his comments, Romney reiterated some of his pro-energy-development platform that he laid out during a visit to coal-mining country in Craig earlier this year. He voiced support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, opening federal lands to energy development, and otherwise taking advantage of natural resources, including coal, which he has contended is being hurt by regulation.
“We have 250 years of coal (supply). Don’t throw it away,” he said.
He said his goal is to make North America energy-independent by the end of his second term.
Both Mead and Perry echoed Romney’s sentiments on energy. Perry said Obama “doesn’t trust you in Colorado to make decisions about your energy policies.”
But he said Coloradans care about protecting their air, water and soil.
“You best know how to take care of your environment,” he said.
On education, Martinez praised Romney’s plans to provide block grants to states and allow them to reward the best teachers and principals.
“We’re not going to leave any of our children behind. They can all learn,” she said.
Meanwhile, Herbert, of Utah, took the opportunity to praise the leadership he said Romney exercised in turning around the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when they ran into trouble. Romney has sought to capitalize politically on the role he played there, but drew criticism during his recent trip to London when he questioned that city’s readiness for the Summer Olympics.
Herbert said he witnessed firsthand Romney’s work in turning the Olympics in Salt Lake City into a success.