HOLLAND, Mich. — Speaking to a crowd of a few hundred with a view of Lake Michigan, likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney addressed certain issues he said have plagued the country for the past four years.
The grassroots rally at Holland State Park marked the conclusion of Romney’s “Every Town Counts” national bus tour across several states including Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. His talking points included the health care omnibus package passed under the Obama administration, “Obamacare,” regulations regarding alternative sources of energy and a balanced budget.
After warming up the crowd with a story about his high school sweetheart — who he wed, Ann Romney — Romney said he thinks America’s “tough times” will soon come to a close.
He said that he sides with those who chanted “four more months” as opposed to protesters’ cries of “four more years” at an event in DeWitt, Mich. held earlier in the day.
“I agree with them,” Romney said of those chanting in his favor. “We’ve gone through some tough times over the past three and a half years, and that’s about to end.”
Throughout his speech, Romney often went back to the topic of the recent debt crises plaguing European nations to demonstrate the negative impact of Obama’s economic policies on the United States. He also cited the President’s health care policy as a key reason for the government’s expanding role in the economy.
“If Obamacare is allowed to stand, the government will consume almost half of the total economy,” he said. “And at some point you have to ask yourself, ‘At what point did we cease being … a free economy, a free enterprise nation?’ ”
Romney also said he thinks Americans don’t want bigger government and more taxes, like what can be found currently in Europe.
He also mentioned a survey of 1,500 small businesses that were asked about how Obamacare has impacted them. According to Romney, three quarters of them said the legislation hinders their ability to hire new workers.
“We’ve got to get rid of Obamacare for you to create jobs,” he said.
Romney also criticized the federal government for its parameters on energy consumption like the increased regulations on natural gas and coal usage.
He said the president’s decision not to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska along with the decrease in drilling in the Gulf of Mexico indicate a reluctance to embrace the full spectrum of energy options.
“(Obama is) in favor of all the energy that comes from above the ground,” Romney said. “If I’m president, we’re going to get (energy from) both above and below, and we’re going to get that keystone pipeline from Canada.”
Romney referenced the founding fathers of the U.S. and the constitution several times throughout his speech and also mentioned the liberties bestowed upon individuals by “the creator” — a word that elicited small applause from the audience.
He said, if elected, by returning to the principles of the founding fathers such as “economic, political and personal freedom,” he would curb America’s “excessive spending” and achieve a balanced budget.
With an added emphasis on the individual, small businesses won’t need to worry as much about government involvement, according to Romney.
However, Romney added that less government involvement wouldn’t mean people will be “off on their own.” Rather, he said without policies like Obamacare, patients will still get a “fair deal” from insurance companies.
“If someone has gotten ill … they can’t be denied coverage for a preexisting condition,” he said. “We’re going to have to make sure that’s a law. We want to protect those citizens that have been playing by the rules.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the rally, Michigan Democratic Chair Mark Brewer said he and fellow Democrats have attended Romney events across the state in order to present attendees with a view from the opposing side.
“It’s important that the public and the press get both sides,” Brewer said. “You’re going to come here and you’re going to hear a lot of platitudes, a lot of campaign slogans out of Mitt Romney.”
Nicole Schreur, a student at Grand Valley State University who attended the rally, said she supports Romney due to her concern with federal and state debt leading to the potential of higher tuition at public universities.
“If you’re so much in debt, then (the government’s) not going to be able to help,” Schreur said. “Students won’t be able to pay for college, and then it’s going to discourage people from actually going to college because they won’t be able to pay for it.”
–Managing Editor Giacomo Bologna contributed to this report.
Correction Appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Mitt Romney as the likely Republican presidential candidate. He is the likely Republican presidential nominee.