Mitt Romney hosted a Florida tele-town hall meeting that didn’t yield a whole lot of news but spoke volumes about the state of the Republican presidential race in Florida.
Right now, it seems that only Romney is running here -- a result of his superior organization and money. His supporters are advertising for him. His campaign is pushing early vote-by-mail absentee ballots (at least 370,000 of which have been requested by Republicans). And he’s stopping in the state every month or so to pick up campaign money and some free TV time.
The only serious challenger to Romney right now, Newt Gingrich, only named a Florida manager this month. If Gingrich doesn’t win one of the early states (South Carolina?), chances are high that Romney wins Florida in the Jan. 31 primary.
Romney began and ended the 30 minute call with a pitch for absentee ballots. His campaign said it called "thousands" of supporters and urged them to dial 1 if they supported Romney. Those who couldn't get their questions asked or answered were told to stay on the line and leave a message for Romney's Florida staff, who would help them out or sign them up to help the campaign.
The questions tonight from the Romney supporters also reflected the Republican electorate. They’re concerned about illegal immigration, Israel and the size of government. And though they’re conservative, a few callers sounded a little worried that their government programs – Medicare and Social Security – are on the chopping block. Romney assured them it wouldn’t happen.
In his opening, Romney took aim at President Obama for supporting entitlements
“The president seems to believe in an entitled nation,” he said. He knocked the president for supporting higher taxes and unions. “President Obama seems to want to turn us into Europe,” he said.
Romney said that, unlike the president, “I understand how small business works and how big business works.”
First call: Annette from Naples who wanted to know about illegal immigration.
“This is not our toughest problem to solve. It’s a problem our politicians don’t want to solve,’ Romney said. He said he supports a border fence in places, but would also “crack down on employers” who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. He said he also opposes giving “illegal aliens” amnesty, college-tuition help or drivers’ licenses.
Gary from Daytona said he was concerned with Obama’s “czars.” Romney chuckled: “I’m not going to have people called ‘Czars.’”
Barbara from Leesburg said she is 65, single, self-employed since 30 and has little to show for it, in part because of the government, which she said intrudes into her bedroom, bathroom, yard, etc.
“What are you going to do to get the government to leave me alone?” she asked.
Romney promised a less “intrusive” government, and fewer regulations: “We’re on the same page,” he said.
Another caller, Wayne from Orlando, said he frequently hears he may not get his Social Security check this month. Said Romney: “Don’t worry, we’re going to protect your Social Security.”
Jane from Lakeland wanted to know if he’d “demolish ObamaCare.” Said Romney: “I intend to repeal ObamaCare.”
Holley in Pensacola asked Romney what specific federal agencies he would you slim down, or eliminate. Romney didn’t name specific agencies, but he said he’d get rid of duplication and would repeal “ObamaCare” and eliminate subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, Amtrak.” He would also give states more control over Medicaid, which he would essentially block grant.
Romney said he’d also trim the federal payroll by about 10 percent.