Romney said he would bring change to Washington
AMES, Iowa (CNN) - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sharply criticized Washington and promised to offer the nation a new direction if elected president in a speech in this college town Saturday where thousands of Republican activists descended to cast votes for their favored GOP candidate.
"We are going to send a message to the entire nation: We want to see a Washington that can finally get the job done," Romney said to a sea of political supporters wearing yellow "Team Mitt" shirts as well as other Republicans attending the Iowa GOP sanctioned straw poll.
The former governor also used the speech to hit on issues favored by the Republican base and at the same time vowed to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats.
"We want to see a Washington that will solve our immigration problems; that will open our hearts and homes to the people who really need our help," said Romney, who was flanked by his wife, Ann, and their family. "We are going to make sure we get healthcare for those who don’t have it. We are going to do a better job supporting our troops. Think of the families today that are not out here celebrating in the sun, but are instead thinking about their loved ones far away. Let's have a surge of support for those that are making such a surge of sacrifice."
He later added, "We are ready for somebody who will actually get the job done; reach across the aisle with Republicans and Democrats coming together to solve the problems America faces."
Romney was one of several GOP candidates participating in this event that is viewed as a test of organizational strength in Iowa. Romney is expected to win this contest and like his opponents set up tents outside Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University to feed supporters, hand out campaign literature, t-shirts and stickers and allow people to step out of the blazing sun.
The candidates were also paying the $35 fee for people to cast a vote for them in the straw poll. Romney easily spent the most money and had an elaborate stage with a video screen off to the side close to the polling entrance.
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, offered an air conditioned tent, a moon bounce and other activities for children, while the other candidates had smaller tents set up on the grounds.
A handful of GOP presidential hopefuls including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain and likely candidate Fred Thompson chose not to participate in this straw poll that is a major fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party.
- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston