In a general election-style speech at Lawrence University in Appleton Wisconsin Friday, Mitt Romney delivered one of his most fundamental critiques of Barack Obama of the campaign so far. The president, Romney said, was elected in 2008 on the strength of his personality, and despite his failures remains surrounded by true believers who are poised to attack anyone who challenges their hold on power.
"This is a president who was elected not on the strength of a compelling record of accomplishment but by a compelling personality and story," Romney said. But while the president's persona appealed to many voters, Romney said, his actual performance in office led to widespread disappointment. Now, Romney continued, "though the reality has failed the hope and change he promised, [Obama] remains surrounded by true believers who attack anyone who challenges their power. And, as we see each day, they will fight even more fiercely to hold on to that power."
Obama's focus on his own personality as the basis of his political appeal, Romney suggested, has led the president to a inflated opinion of his own accomplishments. "President Obama thinks he’s doing a good job," Romney said. "No, I’m not kidding. He actually thinks he’s doing a great job. An historically great job. According to the President, only Lincoln, FDR and Lyndon Johnson have accomplished more. And no, he didn’t say that on Saturday Night Live."
Part of Obama's story, Romney reminded the audience, was his time as a community organizer -- an experience that Obama often cited as a key qualification for him to be elected president. But Romney said Obama's time as an organizer taught him precisely the wrong lessons about the economy. "Barack Obama once said that his work as a community organizer motivated him to help 'communities that had been ravaged by plant closings,'" Romney said. "His desire to help others could not be more admirable, but it's clear that he saw free enterprise as the villain and not the solution." The "ironic tragedy" of Obama's time in office, Romney said, "is that the community organizer who wanted to help those hurt by a plant closing became the president on whose watch more jobs were lost than any time since the Great Depression."
Romney also introduced the phrase "government-centered society." Obama has "spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government-centered society," Romney said, describing a society in which government becomes more intrusive, taxes and spending go up, productivity is inhibited, and benefits go to favored groups. Romney used the phrase "government-centered society" at least seven times in the Appleton speech.