Mitt Romney in town, says Illinois ‘in play’ in 2012 election
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org May 26, 2011 8:06PM
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney meets to discuss jobs and the economy with local business owners at Gino's East, 633 N. Wells Street, Thursday, May 26, 2011. | John H. White~Sun-Times.
Updated: July 7, 2011 1:48PM
Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney chatted with supporters over Chicago-style pizza at Gino’s East Thursday, calling President Barack Obama’s home state “in play” for next year’s election.
“I know we’re only a couple of blocks away from President Obama’s re-election headquarters, but there’s no state that is safe for President Obama given the performance of our economy,” Romney said. “I like the president. He’s a nice guy. But he doesn’t have leadership experience.”
While he criticized Obama, Romney complimented Obama in a way that almost sounded like unofficial criticism of Romney’s rival for the GOP nomination Newt Gingrich:
“I feel very deeply that the president of the United States needs to be an example of an individual that respects their family,” Romney said. “One of the things I like about President Obama is he is a good father, and is in a good marriage and respects his wife and respects his kids. That’s one of the things I think he has done well for the nation and I hope we continue that tradition.”
Gingrich is on his third marriage, as is former and potential future Romney rival Rudy Giuliani. So far, many of the polls show Romney leading the pack of Republican challengers to Obama.
Romney downed bites of Gino’s deep-dish sausage and mushroom pizza — he confessed to some jeers that he was an investor in Domino’s Pizza — as 18 business people asked him questions.
Sylvia Wetzel of Bison Gear and Engineering was one of three of Romney’s lunch guests to ask about health care.
While some health care reform activists who worked to elect Obama complained he delivered only a fraction of the reform he campaigned on, Romney portrayed it as way too much.
“He came to Washington with an agenda which said, ‘I’m going to push through my health care proposal,’” Romney said.
Romney pushed through a similar program while governor of Massachusetts. The difference, Romney said, was that Obama is telling the states what health plan to adopt while Massachusetts chose its own,
When Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts soon after managing the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, he faced a residency challenge from critics who said he had been away from Massachusetts for too long. Did he feel any sympathy for Mayor Rahm Emanuel during Emanuel’s residency challenge?
“It looks to me like he’s getting off a good start,” Romney said of Emanuel. “My residency challenge was one that I was able to bat down pretty easily.”
Romney’s appearance at Gino’s East came between a closed-door fund-raiser and another campaign stop downstate.