Mitt Romney photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Leesburg, Virginia

October 17, 2012

[cheers and applause]

MITT ROMNEY: Wow! Thank you so much. There's a north Virginia welcome. Thank you, Virginia. (Sustained cheers and applause.) Thank you. Wow, what a thrill.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!

MR. ROMNEY: Thank you so much. Boy, you guys. You know, we're going to win Virginia, you know that? We're going to win. [cheers and applause]

I — I want to thank you most for being here this evening and for welcoming me and sending such a clear message across the country and across Virginia. I want to say thanks also to Andy Griggs for coming here and entertaining you. Generous of him to do that. [applause] And thank you to Dennis Miller. What a great guy. [cheers and applause] And appreciate him coming out here and speaking the truth.

And Congressman Wolf, I think that's the first time he's ever been introduced as Frank Whatever-your-name-is. [laughter] That was really — thank you, Congressman, for doing that. And — and also, I was with your governor today, Bob McDonnell. He's a great friend. He's now — [cheers and applause] — out campaigning. I appreciate all he does. You're lucky to have a man like that.

I — I love these debates we've been having, you know that? Those have been a lot of fun. [cheers and applause] I — I think it's interesting. With — with two presidential debates gone, the president still hasn't found an agenda for a second term. We have an agenda for our term, and our agenda's going to get this country working again. [cheers and applause]

Now we have one weekend left before our final debate, and I hope he's able to come up with an agenda over the weekend so — [laughter] — in that last debate, he's able to describe what he'd do if he got four more years. But that's not likely to happen, so he doesn't need to worry about it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah! [cheers and applause]

MR. ROMNEY: Actually, he — he seems to spend most of his time in these debates talking about why my plans aren't going to work. I — I wish he'd spend a little more time explaining why his plans have not worked, and — [cheers and applause] — I mean, you heard — you heard the questions last night. Jeremy was the first person with a question, and he — he said, you know, I — I'm coming out of college. How can I be sure I'm going to have a job? And the president wasn't able to answer how he'd make sure he'd have a job.

Fifty percent of college kids graduating last year couldn't find work or college-level work. I've got an answer for Jeremy. When I become president, I'm going to make sure our kids can find good jobs when they come out of college. [cheers and applause]

Lorraine asked a question about immigration. She wanted to know what th future was of legal immigration in this country. And — and again, the president — you know, we had a question for him. I said, Mr. President, will you explain to us why it was that having — during your campaign said your highest priority would be to file a bill in your first year — first year, when there was a Democrat House and Democrat Senate — you would file a bill to reform our immigration system, and you did not do that. You didn't promise you'd get it passed, you just said you'd file it, and you did not even do that. He had no answer for that either.

He wasn't able to explain another thing, and that was the question that came from Michael. Michael said, you know, why should I vote for you because things aren't going so well. And he wasn't able to explain why the middle class has been so buried over these last four years. And — and I — actually, I was able to describe how tough things have been and how much better they're going to be.

And then there was another question that came from Katherine about women working in the work — in the workplace. And he — he wasn't able to describe exactly the kinds of questions and answers that I think she had in her mind — answers to those things. For instance, why it is that today, 3.6 million more women are living in poverty than when President Obama took office.

And let me mention one more question he couldn't answer. [boos] And that was the question that came from Philip. Philip was the one that asked about gasoline prices. You recall they've gone from about $1.86 to $4 a gallon. [boos] And the president said that's because the economy got better. [laughter] And I thought to myself when we have a real recovery, is he saying they're going to go to $6 or $7?

Look — [laughter] — the president's policies are running on fumes. It's time to finally get a president that'll get this country working again. [cheers and applause]

Now, we — [applause] — I — I think — I think, for all the to and fro in the debates — and I know they're very interesting, and I enjoy the experience — but my guess is that when the debates are over and people stop and they think, OK, what's America going to be like if President Obama is re-elected and what's America going to be like if we get a new president? And there's some pretty stark differences.

If the president were to get re-elected, you will see, at the end of a — four years, a second term, you would see America almost $20 trillion of debt. We'd crush the American dream for the coming generation. [boos] When I become president — when I become president — [cheers and applause] — we're finally — we're finally going to cut spending, we're going to cap federal spending and we're going to get America on track to a balanced budget because that's the only moral course a great nation can take. [cheers and applause]

If we got four more years like the last four years, you're going to see taxes go up. The vice president blurted out the truth the other day; he said, yeah, we're going to raise taxes by a trillion dollars. But that's just the beginning, because with all their spending and borrowing the interest costs go up and up and they're going to have to raise more than just taxes on the very high income folks. The calculation is they'll raise taxes $4,000 per middle income family. When I become president, I will not raise taxes on middle income. I'll bring them down, and also bring them down for small business. [cheers and applause]

You — you heard — you heard in the first debate — you heard at our first debate, the president's plan is to cut Medicaid — excuse me, Medicare — that's the program for seniors, the health care program for seniors — he's going to cut spending in that by $716 billion. That's for current retirees. I will not cut the program for current retirees; I'll put that money back and honor the promises that we've made to our seniors in this country. [cheers and applause]

There's one place — there's one place, though, he seems to be willing to cut spending. And that's for our military. [boos] I — I don't think the world is a safe place.


MR. ROMNEY: I look around the world, with North Korea with its nuclear capability and a very strange dictator. I look at what's happening throughout the Middle East and Pakistan, and I look around North Africa now, with North Mali having been taken by an al-Qaida affiliate. And I recognize the world continues to be dangerous. And the decisions we make now about our military will determine our ability to defend ourselves in the future.

We — it's hard to know what the future might hold. In the 2000 debate, when we were having an election to determine who our president would be — back in the year 2000, there was no mention of terrorism because we didn't know that was on our doorstep. And it came only a year later. We — we don't know what kind of threats we're going to face down the road, but this I can tell you: Unlike cutting the military, as this president would do by a trillion dollars, I will instead maintain our military strength because America's military must be second to none and so strong no one would ever test us. [cheers and applause]

And that of course —

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! [cheers and applause]

MR. ROMNEY: How come — how come all these guys back there got the thundersticks; that's the question, right? (Laughter, cheers, applause.) Look at that. Don't encourage them. Don't encourage them, now. [laughter]

The president was asked a number of times about how he's going to get the economy going over the past couple of debates, and he just doesn't have an answer for that other than to say more of the same. He says we're going to go forward. I think "forewarned" is a better word. [laughter] We've seen the results of the last four years. He had a stimulus, and he wants to hire more government workers — nothing wrong with government workers, but that's not going to get the private economy going. He wants to raise taxes; no one thinks raising taxes will add jobs. And then, of course, he wants to pick winners and losers. And of course, in his case, mostly losers. [laughter]

And we — we've long learned that government picking winners and losers is not the right way to go. My — my own view to get the economy going is pretty straightforward.

One is to take advantage of this extraordinary ace in the hole we have. By virtue of new technology — when I say new technology, we've always been able to drill in the earth vertically, but someone learned how to go vertically and then horizontally and to tap into various pockets of oil and gas. And because of that, massive new resources of both oil and gas in this country. That's why we actually can become North American energy independent within eight years, because of this new technology. [cheers and applause]

And I'm — I'm going to take advantage of it, get us on that track. And by the way, as we do that, and as we bring in that pipeline from Canada — it was interesting — [cheers and applause] — I — I just have to mention. I remember last night, the president also saying about energy. He said, you know, we — we built pipelines that would go around the earth, and I thought, you know, it — it's just the one that comes from Canada with the oil is the one we want, you think? [laughter] And so that's the one I'm going to get. [applause]

And — so energy. And that'll create a lot of jobs not just in the energy sector, but in manufacturing and other parts of America, places that use a lot of energy. They'll come back here to create jobs. That's one.

Number two, I like trade, I like opening up new markets for American goods so we can sell things abroad, and particularly in Latin America. In our — and — did you realize Latin America's economy is about the same size as China's, growing fast with great opportunity for us next door in the same time zones? We want to take advantage of those — of those opportunities nearby. So we're going to take advantage of — of trade.

And then number three, we're going to make sure our people have the skills they need to succeed with — with training programs that work for people to give them the skills they need and — and to make sure our schools are the best in the world.

Look, how can the nation that invented public education fall so far behind? I'm going to make sure we put our kids first, parents first, teachers first and the teachers union is going to go behind. [cheers and applause]

And, of course, balancing a budget is essential to create a strong economy.

And one more, number five. I'm going to champion small business. [cheers and applause] I've gone across the country and I — I — I've seen the — the power and the vitality of small business. And when I talk to people who've been able to grow a small business, they tell me time and again we're overtaxed, we're overregulated, we're getting burdened by the threat of "Obamacare" down — coming down the road. I want to make it easier for small busines to grow and thrive. I know how to do that.

I've been — I've spent 25 years in business. I want to make it easier for small business. I — I was with a guy who — who had an electronics business, four employees in St. Louis. And he said that he and his son calculated how much money they spend in taxes every year. You see, he's one of the lucky small businesspeople who actually succeeded.

I mean, it's hard to get a business going. Most of them don't make it; his made it. So he pays taxes. He said, we calculated our federal income tax, our federal payroll tax, our state income tax, our real estate tax, our gasoline tax, we added them together and it was over half of what we make. And so when you — when you're in a country where, if you're successful, the government takes over half of what you're making, you make it less likely for businesses to grow and thrive.

I want to get those tax rates down so small business can grow and hire more people. [cheers and applause] And by the way — and by the way, that — that small businessman I'm talking about, he did build that business, all right. He and the people there — [cheers and applause] — they built that business.

I just love — there's so much about this country I love. I — I — I've seen people — some of these small businesses, the entrepreneurship and innovation in their hearts just inspire me.

I was with a woman who has her own business, and I said how'd you get — how'd you get going? She said, well, my husband lost his job and he took a class in upholstering. And she, being the better business mind in the family, formed a corporation and hired him as her first employee. [laughter] And — and she went on, she said, to hire 39 more people as upholsterers. And she now has a leading upholstering company. And I thought, well, that's creative and innovative.

And then I met another guy, Jim Leotoad from Central Illinois. Jim graduated from high school second in his class — second from the bottom, that is. [laughter] And Jim — Jim concluded that college was not likely to be part of his future, so he — he had decided he was going to start a food business. And — and he talked to his dad, and his dad agreed to loan him some money, they'd split the business about 50-50.

And so Jim went out to get one of those griddles that you put — or, you cook hamburgers on; those rollers that you cook hot dogs on. And when he priced it all out, it was a lot more money than he had. He concluded all he could do in the food industry with the money he had was make sandwiches, because sandwiches don't take any particular equipment — just some stainless steel tables and so forth. So he bought those, and went into a garage and began making sandwiches and delivering them people — and delivering them to people at work.

Now, Jimmy John's has 1,500 restaurants — [cheers and applause] — and 60,000 employees. Sixty thousand! It's an amazing country. And — and what I want to do, I don't want to transform America into something we wouldn't recognize. I don't make America like Europe; I don't like — want to make America a government-centered society. [boos] I want to restore to America the freedoms that drive our economy. Our economy is driven by freedom, by personal freedom, by people pursing their dreams. [cheers and applause] I want to bring that back.

And the nation —

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!

MR. ROMNEY: The nation is also — it's also driven by patriotism, by some of the great qualities of the human spirit that we see evidenced in our fellow Americans from day to day. Throughout my life, I've been inspired by the people of this country, some in very remarkable ways.

I remember, I was a Boy Scout leader in Massachusetts, and — got a few Scouters here, I hear — [cheers and applause] — and I was at a Court of Honor. And there was a Formica table in front, in the gymnasium, and I was seated at the far end of the Formica table, next to the American flag. And the person who was speaking at the podium was the scoutmaster for Monument, Colorado.

And he told a story about their flag. Their Boy Scout troop had decided to have a very special American flag. And they bought one with gold tassels around it, and then they had it flown in unusual places, including above the Capitol dome. And then when it came home, the boys said, look, we'd — we'd like to have it also go up on the space shuttle. And so they contacted NASA and said, would you take our flag on the space shuttle?

Now, space is at a premium in space — [laughter] — and they're not, you know, likely to take souvenirs from everybody across America, but they agreed. They said, yeah, we'll take that flag for your Boy Scout troop. And so it went on the space shuttle. He said — you can imagine how proud the boys were, looking from their homerooms at school, watching the TV set as they watched the shuttle launch with great pride. And then they saw it exploded on the TV screen, before their eyes.

And the scoutmaster said that he called NASA a couple of weeks later and said, have you found any remnant of our flag? And they said no.

He said that he called month after month, almost every week, asking them had they found some remnant of the flag, and the answer was always no. And then he finally gave up calling until about September, when he was reading an article in the newspaper that described some of the debris that had been found from Challenger disaster. And they mentioned something about a flag there. So he called NASA, and they said, in fact, we do have a presentation to make to you and your troop.

And so NASA came together with the Boy Scout troop and their parents, and they were presented with a plastic container. And the boys open it up, and there inside was their flag in perfect condition. [applause] And he said, and that's it on the flagpole, next to Mr. Romney.

And I — [chuckles] — I reached over and I grabbed the flag and pulled it out. And it was as if electricity was running through my arm, as I thought about the sacrifice of our men and women in the space program — their love for learning, their willingness to pioneer for us, the discoveries they made that our life might be more enjoyable and full.

It's the nature of America, to live for something bigger than ourselves. It's the young man or the young woman who graduates from high school or college and says, I'm going to put my career on the side for now; I want to go serve my nation. It's the — [cheers and applause] — it's the single mom — it's the single mom who doesn't know whether they'll be able to put food on the table at the end of the week, and scrimps and saves so they can do so. (Helicopter sounds overhead.) And it's the sound of freedom, like a helicopter going by. [laughter] That's probably another military helicopter, but I appreciate it when I hear them. [cheers and applause] Smile, you guys, we're on TV. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) I'm just kidding; I have no idea whose helicopter that is. [laughter]

There are other sacrifices we make. I see dads who are working two jobs now, and they're working two jobs so they can buy clothes for their kids so the kid doesn't stand out in school. And there are parents this Christmas who aren't going to exchange gifts with one another. They're instead going to make sure their kids have a great Christmas.

This is the nature of our American spirit. We live for something bigger than ourselves. I love in particular the men and women of our military. I love the fact that they sacrifice day in and day out for our — for our safety and for our well-being. [cheers and applause]

I love that — I love that verse in O — "America the Beautiful." "O beautiful, for heroes proved, in liberating strife, who more than self their country love and mercy more than life." Would our veterans please raise your hands and members of the armed forces to be recognized? [cheers and applause] Thank you. Thank you.

I want to draw — I want to draw on that spirit. I want to draw on the spirit of unity in this country. I don't want to divide America, I want to bring America together. I want to — to kindle once again the great qualities of the human spirit that exist within America. I want to make sure that we come together as Republicans and Democrats. People of all the states come together, get this country right again.

I don't want to transform America, I want to restore the values that make America the nation that we are. I want to get our economy going, put people back to work. [cheers and applause]

Twenty days. We have 20 days, we have 20 days. We need to take back America. It's up to you guys in Virginia. [cheers and applause] You can make the difference. You're going to make the difference. We're taking back America. We're going to remain the powerhouse of the earth, putting our people back to work, giving our kids a bright future.

America's coming back. We're going to have a real recovery. Thank you, guys. [cheers and applause]

Mitt Romney, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Leesburg, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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