With the critical Illinois primary only a day away, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took his pitch to President Barack Obama‘s home turf, speaking on the campus of the University of Chicago, where Obama taught constitutional law from 1991-2004. The university’s home — Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood — was also home to the president before his move to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Romney used the speech to again draw a philosophical divide between himself and the president.
“For three years, President Obama has expanded government instead of empowering the American people,” he said. “He’s put us deeper in debt. He’s slowed the recovery and harmed our economy. And he has attacked the cornerstone of American prosperity: our economic freedom.”
He contrasted Obama’s economic vision with his own. As he’s often done before, he leaned heavily on his business experience: “I spent 25 years in business. My work took me too many countries. I was often struck by the enormous differences in the wealth and well-being of people living in different nations.
“I was interested in how nations that were so close to each other in terms of geography could be so different in terms of prosperity,” Romney said. “Take, for example, Mexico and the United States, Israel and Egypt, Chile and Ecuador.”
The speech was boiler-plate that presented Obama as a big-government liberal who wants to increase the size and scope of government.
Romney said his own vision is one of economic freedom: less government, less regulations and lower taxes. (RELATED: Full coverage of the Romney campaign)
If the content of the speech was not remarkable, the location was. Hyde Park is not only where President Obama once lived, but also Bill Ayers. Obama once referred to Ayers as “just another guy from the neighborhood.” (RELATED: Inside TheDC’s dinner with former Weather Underground terrorists)
Among the luminaries to call the University of Chicago home was Milton Friedman, who taught at the University of Chicago for several decades starting in 1946.
Not coincidentally, Romney used an anecdote about Friedman to begin his speech. Friedman had visited a public works project in Asia in the 1960s, where he saw thousands of workers, most with shovels and not machines, all trying to build a dam. He asked the bureaucrat why there were so few machines on site and the bureaucrat told Friedman that this was a jobs program.
The anecdote ended with Romney quoting Friedman, saying, “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If its jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons — not shovels.”
While recent polling has given Romney a growing lead in Illinois, the campaign has taken little for granted. The University of Chicago event was the latest in a series of campaign stops throughout in the past four days. Those events included a town hall meeting with Republican congressional candidate Robert Dold in Vernon Hills, a posh northern suburb near the Wisconsin border. Romney held a meet-and-greet in a Rockford diner on Monday morning. He was also scheduled to have another town hall in Peoria, a town in central Illinois about 150 miles southwest of Chicago.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum was also making his presence felt in Illinois. He held a rally in Moline, a town on the border of Missouri, about 250 miles south of St. Louis on Monday. He also held a rally in Dixon, Illinois — a town about 100 miles west of Chicago. On Monday evening, Santorum was going to hold another rally at Davis Brothers Restaurant in East Peoria, Ill.
Both Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have all but given up on Obama’s home state. Paul held one event last week and has since been campaigning elsewhere. Gingrich held a town hall event last week as well but has since been campaigning on Louisiana.