WEST PALM BEACH — Appearing very much the front-runner in the GOP race for president, Mitt Romney focused his attacks on President Barack Obama during a Thursday swing through the state.
Addressing hundreds of supporters at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, Romney never mentioned his Republican rivals. Instead, Romney pounded the president on everything from his handling of Iran, to his decision to retreat from a U.S. promise to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, to the state of the overall American economy.
"We've had three years now of unemployment above 8 percent," Romney said. "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."
A Quinnipiac University poll released this week has Romney with a comfortable 12-point lead in Florida ahead of the Jan. 31 primary. Romney said he hopes to avoid a razor-thin victory like his win in Iowa, where he narrowly defeated former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
"I won in a landslide of eight votes," he said. "I hope you guys can do a little better than that."
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 the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would have to stand on their own. And he suggested that 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 Kellogg's Corn Flakes. We just can't keep borrowing and borrowing."