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Mitt Romney’s depressing tour of Florida stops at closed Jacksonville printing shop

Jon Cummings spoke so quietly the crowd at Mitt Romney’s rally had to tell him to speak up. He didn’t sound like a politician. He sounded like the man who shut down a century old business in the tough economy.

“Four years ago here, we had close to 50 people working,” Cummings said. “By the time I called everyone just after Christmas to tell them we were suspending operations, we had about 24 people left.”

Speaking in front of a giant “Obama isn’t working” sign next to an industrial trash bin, Cummings said the administration’s work-place regulations bore some blame. But so did the bad economy, competition from China, rising insurance costs and changes in technology.

“I have never seen anything like the last 3 years. It’s been a crazy, crazy ride,” Cummings said. ““We chose to quit the fight.”

Romney soon spoke and said the obvious: “This is not a happy day, here, in this plant of course.”

He blamed President Obama. “It’s an indication of what’s gone wrong with this administration,” Romney said. “Jon asked, ‘how long is this going to go on?’ And the answer is: it’s going to go on until January of 2013.”
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Romney said the president hasn’t followed through on his promises, and has made business “the enemy” in America. He never mentioned the name of Newt Gingrich, whom he had sharply criticized when Romney was down in the polls.

“If you think that you really need someone who has been part of the culture of Washington for the last 35 years and continue in Washington, well there are other people you can choose,” Romney said.

Romney never mentioned Obama’s predecessor, George Bush, under whom the recession began, suggesting all the economic woes were the current president’s fault. He has toured a closed gypsum factory in Tampa, a foreclosed home in Lehigh Acres and a struggling business in Orlando to drive the home the message, which conflicts in tone with Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s optimistic view that the state’s on the right track.

Romney's events have fewer attendees than Gingrich's and less passion. But Romney's events are well-staged and relentlessly on message, unlike Gingrich's off-the-cuff populist rallies. By Romney also added a new riff to his stump speech: Invoking the Bill Murray film ‘Groundhog Day’ in which a man has to relive the same day over and over again.

 “This has been a ‘Groundhog Day’ presidency. He keeps saying the same things. And we keep waking up and the same things are going on,” Romney said. “Nothing changes. He said he was the candidate of change. But you still have 20 million people out of work. You still have almost 10 percent unemployment here in Florida. You still have home values down and continuing to go down. You still have record numbers of foreclosures in Florida. You still have median income suffering -- middle income families suffering. The median income in America has dropped by 10 percent in just the last four years. He keeps saying these great things he’s going to do. And yet we wake up and it’s the same picture every single morning. It’s been a ‘Groundhog Day’ presidency and that’s going to end if I’m president.”

Polls suggest the race in Florida between Obama and Romney, should he win, is tied. But Obama is showing some signs of traction. Still, Floridians are displeased with the state of their government, polls show, and many don’t think the state or nation is on the right track.

That sentiment only helps Romney. And he knows it.

“If you believe like I do that he has not put things on the right track,” Romney said, “but we’re on the wrong track and that we need to change course in this country and get back to American values and American principles then I want your vote on Tuesday.”

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