FARMINGTON HILLS — In front of a packed house of professionals hailing from private sector industries around the state, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney professed his adoration for his native state of Michigan, lauding the work of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in using his vast business experience to revitalize the ailing economy.
Romney’s adulations come on the heels of a formal endorsement of the Republican presidential candidate hopeful by Snyder, during an event sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce at the Farmington Hills Manor in Farmington Hills yesterday afternoon. A crowd of almost 500 listened as Romney discussed the importance of understanding business operations when working as a government official seeking to absolve persisting problems of national debt.
With recent polls indicating a near tie between Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — who also held a campaign event yesterday in Detroit — leading into the Michigan presidential primary on Feb. 28, Snyder said it’s crucial to support a candidate with business knowledge.
“We’ve got Governor Romney, who has that acumen,” Snyder said. “He has a great combination of private sector experience, but also knowing what it takes to create a job and how difficult that is, how to succeed in the private sector.”
Romney echoed Snyder and said utilizing the business principles in developing government policy is critical to assist a country facing prolonged economic peril. He praised Snyder for his work in cutting costs in Michigan in the past fiscal year, in which he brought a debt-ridden state into a $457 million surplus, as revealed during Snyder’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal last week.
“If we can do in Washington what you guys have done here, we’d be in a great position as a nation,” Romney said. “I hope to do in Washington as the governor has done here.”
Romney added that government officials at all levels must carefully monitor budgets so as not to spend money outside of their thresholds and create further debt.
“You see, in the private sector that you all are in, you’re either fiscally conservative, or you’re out of business. You can’t borrow money year after year after year spending more than you take in, or you go bankrupt.”
Romney’s father was governor of Michigan in the 1960s, and was chairman and president of American Motors Corporation. During his speech yesterday, Romney expressed compassion for the state’s rejuvenated automobile industry, following an op-ed he wrote for The Detroit News this week that was critical of the federal government’s bailout of the automotive industry, and an announcement by General Motors yesterday that the company earned a $472 million profit in the fourth quarter of 2011.
“I love cars. I grew up totally loving cars,” Romney said “It used to be in the ‘50s and ‘60s you showed me one square foot of a car, I could tell you what brand it was, model and so forth … I love American cars, and long live they rule the world.”
Romney said job creation will be a major priority of his if he is elected president, adding that he will work with businesses to generate increased revenue to spur job creation.
“The whole idea of profit is to create incentives to entrepreneurs and innovators to find ways to do things less and less expensive with better and better quality,” Romney said.
Mark Cords, a University alum who has worked for General Motors for 30 years, said in an interview after the event he has “mixed feelings” about Obama’s handling of the auto bailout, but ultimately understands the need for government intervention to assist one of America’s most coveted industries.
“When I go back to (the University), the professors that I still know tell me, you know, it’s not for government to save industries,” Cords said. “However, having said that, the auto industry is such an integral part of not only this state, but this country, and I can certainly understand the need for them to provide some support.”
The federal government provided GM with $49.5 billion and Chrysler with $10.8 billion in 2008 and 2009.
Cords called Romney a “proven winner in the private sector,” adding that despite the criticism that he may lack the charisma and compassion to become president, voters should not be quick to judge.
“The pundits all talk about how he doesn’t really have that energy or that passion,” he said. “I think everyone has a different style. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the governor, when he was campaigning, I wasn’t really all that impressed with his onstage presence, but now that I’ve looked beyond that, I’ve seen that there’s more substance to the man than just a sound bite or a quick line.”
Rusty Hills, director of public affairs for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, said obtaining an endorsement from Snyder will be important in garnering support for Romney looking forward, adding that Santorum’s upswing of success can be attributed to momentum that Romney will likely regain leading into the Michigan primary.
“The primaries are all about momentum, and it’s about who’s won last, and there’s no doubt that Senator Santorum is riding a wave of momentum from his three wins last Tuesday, and that’s what’s propelled him in the polls in Michigan.”
Thus far, Santorum has won primary contests in Iowa, Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota.
Hills, who is also a lecturer at the Ford School of Public Policy, said as a growing number of students struggle to find jobs after graduation, the election will give Romney a time to show them he’s capable of increasing job security.
“We’ve got to do a better job of creating jobs and keeping jobs in our state,” Hill said. “I think the Obama administration’s failed on that front. I think there’s a real opportunity for Mitt Romney and the Republicans to attract a much larger percentage of the youth vote than four years ago, precisely because I think we’ve got a prescription to provide jobs to young graduates and do a much better job at it than the administration is doing right now.”
Amanda Caldwell, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said the wavering support between Republican candidates demonstrates weakness and splintering within the Republican Party.
“We’ve had a huge swing to the right,” Caldwell said. “Two years ago in 2010, we had a Republican governor coming in, and huge majorities in the (state) House and Senate for Republicans, and I think people are just really unhappy with what they’ve seen come out of the state since that shift. I think we’re going to have a lot of folks swinging back the other way, back in support of Obama and other Democrats.”