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Romney supporters flock to West Palm Beach

Mitt Romney made no mention of his GOP opponents and instead focused his criticism for Barack Obama today in a speech given to hundreds of Republicans to the West Palm Beach Convention Center today.

Romney came across as confident and casual as he tried to joke about his own performance in Iowa.

"I won in a landslide of eight votes," he said. "I'm hoping you guys can do a little better than that."

He mocked Obama for promising that change is coming: "you've got that right!" Romney said.

He criticized Obama's foreign policy and took him to task on a long list of domestic issues including unemployment, job creation and health care. Romney accused of Obama of trying to "make us more like a European-style welfare state" and viewing the role of government as taking from some and redistributing to others.

He criticized Obama’s foreign policy saying that he failed in Iran and pulled back our nuclear defense system from eastern Europe. Romney took Obama to task for criticizing Israeli settlements and vowed to be a supporter of Israel.

Romney said that Obama failed to deliver on a promise related to unemployemnt.

“We’ve had three years now of unemployment above 8 percent. The newly elected president said "let me borrow $787 billion and I’ll keep unemployment below 8 percent." And it hasn’t been below since. This president has failed the American people.”

Romney promised to examine each federal program and ask “is this program so critical to our country that we should continue to borrow money from China to pay for it? …. The first one I’d get rid of is Obamacare,” he said to big applause.

He also said some “wonderful” programs such as National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would have to stand on their own. He suggested PBS start advertising rather than rely on federal funding.

“I like PBS. I like Big Bird, you know Bert and Ernie and Big Bird. … I’m afraid Big Bird is going to have to get used to Kelloggs cornflakes. We just can’t keep borrowing and borrowing.”

Romney talked about America as a “merit-nation” and “opportunity nation.”

Voters who came to hear Romney speak were most concerned about the economy but also paid attention to Romney’s comments about military spending, health care and his leadership style. Some were long-time Romney supporters and voted for him in the last election while others were more cautious about embracing him.

“I am looking for the person who will beat Barack Obama,” said David Mintzer, a 60-year-old real estate agent from Palm Beach. “If he is the one then I will support him.”

Barbara Thomas-Jones, an African-American Republican activist from Wellington, said she voted for Romney four years ago. But she said some of her Republican peers aren’t sold on him.

“They don’t like him because of the social issues -- he flip-flops so they say,” said the retired pathologist.  But Thomas-Jones doesn’t hold Romney’s at times less conservative views against him while he was governor of a very Democratic state. “He had a state to run. I wouldn’t call him conservative but he can get there. Ronald Reagan got there.”

Marc Collier and Ann Frady, Massachusetts snowbirds who live in Jupiter and vote in Florida, said they have liked Romney since he was their governor. Frady was a single mother on a part-time income with no health insurance when Romney brought his health care plan to Massachusetts -- and Frady signed up. But her boyfriend, Collier, sees “Obamacare” as a different animal -- he fears the national government will take it over.

Cuban-American Elaine Fandino said that at first she supported Newt Gingrich because of his experience as a house speaker. But she was turned off by “the way he is fighting with Romney” and changed her mind about a week ago. Fandino said she saw a Romney ad on Telemundo and likes what she sees.

“He said he agrees with legal immigration,” said Fandino, who lives in Greenacres and works as a sales secretary at a TV station.