Mitt Romney: Obama warning on budget has 'no relevance in reality'

On Tuesday Obama said the Republican budget would lead to draconian cuts to the social safety net. Mitt Romney counterpunched Wednesday, calling the warnings 'rhetorical excess.'

Larry Downing/Reuters
Mitt Romney gestures during the Newspaper Association of America annual luncheon in Washington on Wednesday.

Mitt Romney punched back Wednesday for the merciless beating he and the Republicans took at the hand of President Obama the day before, calling Mr. Obama’s predictions of draconian cuts to social safety net and other programs “straw men.”

Mr. Romney was in Washington to address the Newspaper Association of America, and fresh off a sweep of Tuesday’s three primaries that tightened his grip on the GOP nomination. Obama, he said, had looked at the House Republican budget and pointed to “all the terrible things that would happen” if cuts were made by the same percentage across the board. But that’s not how it would work, he said.

“These things are just straw men that have no relevance in reality,” Romney said during the question and answer portion of his appearance. “I think it’s important for us to talk about the real issues that exist in the country and how we would address them.”

Romney accused Obama of engaging in “rhetorical excess [that] I don’t think serves us terribly well in a process like this.”

In his speech Tuesday, Obama listed a series of cuts aimed at illustrating life under the House Republican budget, from depriving 2 million women and young children of nutritional assistance to reductions in financial aid to 10 million college students.

Romney suggested Obama was engaging in a false exercise. “Of course you wouldn’t cut programs on a proportional basis,” he said. “There would be some programs you would limit outright – eliminate outright, Obamacare being first on the list. And that saves about $100 billion a year.”

One straw man, Romney said, was that “Republicans are interested in corporations being able to do whatever they want to do with pollution and with their employees with impunity, without regard to the consequence.”

In his prepared remarks, Romney accused the president of not being forthcoming with his plans for the country.

“He wants us to reelect him so we can find out what he will actually do,” Romney said. “With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide-and-seek campaign.”

Romney also rejected Obama’s assertion Tuesday that Ronald Reagan couldn’t “get through a Republican primary today,” because of his willingness both to cut spending and raise taxes in the name of deficit reduction.

“I actually think Ronald Reagan would win handily in a primary, and frankly in all the primaries,” he said. “I also think that our party is intent on preserving the vitality and dynamism of the American spirit that I think is being deadened by a series of government programs that have been increasingly invasive and have attacked economic freedom.”

Romney played down Obama’s claims of success in his presidency, saying that his legislation failed to get the economy going again.

“I know some will say, ‘But the economy is getting better,’ ” Romney said. “Yeah, three and a half years after the stimulus has expired. Of course, every recession ends.”

Romney acknowledged that polls show him facing a large deficit in the women’s vote against Obama, noting that the Republican Party has traditionally faced a gender gap. He blamed the Democrats for “doing a good job of mischaracterizing our views.” But in the final analysis, “we will win with men and women in battleground states and across the country,” he said. “That will be by focusing on issues women and men care most about.”

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