Several hours after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told a group of unemployed workers in a Tampa, Fla., coffee shop that “I’m also unemployed,’’ the affluent Republican presidential candidate said he was only making fun of himself and then went on the offensive against President Barack Obama.
During a tour of the 22-year-old Smyrna business, Kenny’s Great Pies, Romney said, “I will always make light of myself. Self-deprecating humor is a part of who I am. But the reality is we have a president who doesn’t understand the plight of the unemployed. We have in this country a 9.1 unemployment rate, and he says this is a bump in the road.”
Romney was fundraising in Florida Thursday, and attended a Buckhead private home fundraiser Thursday night where the entry fee reportedly started at $1,000.
But in between, Romney spent some time in Smyrna, where Kenny’s Great Pies President and CEO Kenny Burts guided him through a tour of his business. Romney was very complimentary of Burts and fellow small business owners across America. But he repeatedly had harsh words for the Obama administration's policies, saying the government needed to loosen regulations on banks to jump-start job growth.
“You don’t so overburden the financial sector that it can’t do the job it’s intended to do, which is make loans to small business and put people back to work,” he said. “If I became president, job No. 1 for me is to put American people back to work.
When asked how he would do that, Romney, who finished third in the 2008 Georgia presidential primary, said, “No. 1 is keep the tax burden low, get the regulatory burden lower. And we have to have trade policies with other nations that make sense for us and not just them.’’
This week, the Romney campaign released a new advertisement called, “Bump In The Road,’’ and he repeated the catch phrase several times Thursday when discussing the unemployment rate, which is 9.8 in Georgia.
Earlier in the day, the substantially wealthy Romney received criticism following his “unemployment’’ comment in Tampa. Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) issued a statement calling the comment “inappropriate and insensitive.”
But in pushing that comment aside as one made merely in jest, Romney turned serious and said, “I have had the privilege of being with a number of unemployed people today, talking about their concerns. I am in touch. Our president simply doesn’t understand that his policies are causing a level of unemployment that’s really unheard of in modern history. We now have a greater degree of long term unemployment in America than we had in the depression.’’
Coming Friday: Smyrna and Cobb government and business leaders react to Romney’s appearance.
- Sydney Busby contributed to this story.