Romney attacks Obama in first major speech since 2008

Jon Ward Contributor
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Republican Mitt Romney launched a withering series of attacks against President Obama Thursday in his first major speech since the 2008 election, saying the president has “failed the American people.”

“President Obama fails to understand America,” Romney said, in a speech at the annual CPAC conference in Washington.

Romney removed any doubt, early in the 30-minute speech, about which direction he would go in his first big appearance as the Republican presidential front-runner, aggressively criticizing Obama from the start.

He accused Obama of trying to implement a “reckless” economic agenda that would “kill the spirit” of American competitiveness.

“We won’t let them do it,” he said, pounding the podium and receiving one of the only standing ovations of his speech.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, harped on Obama’s response to the Democrats’ electoral losses in New Jersey and Virginia in the fall and in the Bay State, framing the president as a paternalistic liberal.

“It seems that we have failed to understand his wise plans for us,” Romney said. “If we just listen better then we’ll get it.”

Romney said that Obama’s setbacks are his own fault, despite what he said were attempts to blame Republicans and the American people.

“His energy should have been focused on fixing the economy, creating jobs,” and on counterterrorism, Romney said. “Instead he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived takeover of health care and to building his popularity in foreign countries.”

Romney said Obama’s economic platform so far has been “the most anti-growth, anti-investment, anti-jobs measures we’ve seen in our lifetimes.”

“He called it ambitious. I call it reckless.”

Romney also predicted that the Democrats’ majority in Congress “will soon be out the door.”

The stream of red meat was custom-fitted for the CPAC conference, which is organized by the American Conservative Union Foundation.

The audience of several thousand at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel received Romney warmly, but not as enthusiastically as it did former Vice President Dick Cheney before him.

Newly minted Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, also got a louder response from the crowd when he introduced Romney.

But the crowd did stand and applaud for Romney longer than they had for either Cheney or Brown, in a gesture that appeared to be an acknowledgment that Romney, for now, is their party’s top prospect to challenge Obama in 2012.

Romney is widely acknowledged to be the early front-runner for the Republican nominee in 2012. He was competitive in 2008 before losing to John McCain, and has since kept a relatively low national profile while retaining his core team of advisers and operatives. He has started a political action committee, is about to embark on a book tour for his new release that hits stores on March 2.

In other words, he has checked all the boxes. But that has long been the Romney way, and in some ways has created the dual-edged image of the square-jawed former governor as by the book to a fault.

Questions remain about Romney’s conservative convictions, given his time as governor of one of the country’s most liberal states, and his approval then of universal health-care coverage.

Romney gave a nod to the conservative bases’ past questions about him, mentioning that he has been “regarded somewhat suspiciously at gatherings like this.”

Read Mitt Romney’s prepared remarks right here at The Daily Caller.