Here is something you don’t hear very often in Colorado anymore: a politician comparing himself to Bob Beauprez.Yet there was GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, noting the similarity between himself and Beauprez – whose campaign for Colorado governor last year was disastrous — during a stump speech and town hall meeting at Denver University this week. More specifically, Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, and Beauprez, a former Colorado congressman, have both been exceedingly successful in business.
And so now, as president, when it comes to out-of-control pork barrel spending, Romney wants to stop the bleeding.
During his speech, however, Romney did not identify any specific projects or areas of government that he would slash — though he did say that more money must be spent on veterans and injured soldiers returning from Iraq.
Such town hall meetings by presidential candidates have been rare in Colorado so far, but Romney noted to the group of several hundred mostly white DU students that it’s a good idea to visit early primary states like Colorado. You can’t expect to be a household name, unless, of course you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger, he said.
And Romney told the “Not In Your Wildest Dreams,” story — again. It goes like this: He’s talking to his wife, Ann. And he says to her, “Sweetheart, in your wildest dreams did you ever think I’d run for president of the United States?” And his wife says, “Mitt, you weren’t in my wildest dreams.”
It’s always good for a laugh, and he seems to tell it everywhere he goes, like back in March, when Romney wondered in his wildest dreams whether he would ever speak to the American Conservative Union (CPAC).
And Romney also got a few laughs with his “Idiot On The Highway” story — a “not true” story — about how he’s driving home from work down Interstate 95 and his wife calls him up with a warning. The TV is saying some idiot is driving the wrong way down the highway, she says. “It’s not just one idiot,” Romney says, “it’s hundreds of idiots.”
OK, enough with the jokes. What this country needs, the candidate says, is economic innovation, a stronger emphasis on technology, “incentivizing,” a strong military and a presidential line-item veto.
The first question from the audience comes from a young man who asked about health care, noting the bloated costs and golden parachutes in America’s current private sector system.
“That’s simply not true,” Romney said. Private sector health care, he said, is more efficient.
Then Matt Goodrich, a law student and a gay man, asked why the candidate should get his vote — and how Romney would protect his rights.
Romney launched into a riff about the sanctity of marriage as something that should only be between a man and a woman, and how children need nurturing from a mom and a dad to thrive — and then he drew snorts and laughs from many in the crowd when he added, “At the same time, I am not in favor of discrimination.”
He doesn’t believe in employment or housing discrimination against gays and lesbians, Romney maintained — but his reference to having a gay man in his Cabinet while governor drew criticism that he was pulling the “gay friend card.”
Moving right along, of Iraq, Romney says he hopes to see the “stepping down” of troops, but wants no safe havens for terrorists left behind.
The last question – a real humdinger — came from Tessa, identified only by her first name, a student at DU’s School of Business. It was about immigration — sort of. How, Tessa wondered, could we hold Mexico accountable for their people and get Mexicans to go back to Mexico?
Yes, Tessa actually said that.
Romney responded, saying that the values of American culture should be “shared” with other countries — including the values we have for health care and education and against corruption. America’s borders need to be secured.
“By the way, we can learn from other countries as well,” Romney said. “I like people coming with other cultures. We are a nation of immigrants.”
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org