Romney's South Carolina debut: States' rights, Medicare and barbecue
May 21st, 2011
06:25 PM ET
4 years ago

Romney's South Carolina debut: States' rights, Medicare and barbecue

Irmo, South Carolina (CNN) – Mitt Romney spoke to a button-downed group of small business owners Saturday in the early primary state of South Carolina, but with frequent nods to the Constitution and states' rights, he sounded like he might have been at ease addressing a Tea Party rally instead.

Romney, who donned jeans and rolled-up shirtsleeves for his first visit to South Carolina as a potential Republican presidential candidate, questioned President Barack Obama’s understanding of the role of government and basic economic matters.

“I believe in the Constitution,” Romney said. “I believe in what the Constitution said, that the government that would deal primarily with citizens at the local level would be local and state government, not the federal government. I don’t think the president respects states like I do.”

“I respect the rights of states to come up with their owns answers and their own solutions to compete with one another,” he added.

The former governor’s argument conveniently dovetails with his aggressive defense of the health care plan he implemented in Massachusetts, which has drawn scorn from some conservatives because of its strong resemblance to President Obama’s health care law.

Later, taking questions from the roughly 30-member audience, Romney went out of his way to address the elephant in the room.

“Someone’s got to ask me about health care right?” Romney said with a chuckle, prompting several voters to raise their hands.

He responded that, if elected, he would immediately repeal “Obamacare” and give states block grants to develop their own health care programs.

Romney’s first foray into South Carolina was a simple question-and-answer session held in the warehouse of Meetze Plumbing, a small business in the Columbia suburb of Irmo. Romney and his staff stopped by an area barbecue joint on the way into town and brought trays of pulled pork, hushpuppies and jugs of iced tea for the audience.

The low-key affair signaled that Romney intends to run a different kind of campaign in the state than he did in 2008, when his well-funded South Carolina footprint included a team of veteran political consultants, a small army of field staffers and splashy road-signs planted at seemingly every street corner.

Romney went on to finish fourth in the 2008 South Carolina primary, and this time around his exploratory committee has only one staffer on the ground.

Still, Romney was keen to make note of local economic issues facing the state, and said he had spoken with Gov. Nikki Haley about job creation in the state.

A Haley spokesman later said the two chatted on the phone on Friday. Haley backed Romney’s 2008 bid when she was a state legislator but has not picked a horse in the 2012 race. Though she has promised to endorse a candidate before next February’s primary.

Romney cited a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board that could halt construction of a new Boeing facility in South Carolina. The North Charleston plant is expected to create thousands of jobs.

“How in the world can the president justify the federal government taking power from South Carolina and not allowing South Carolina to compete on a fair and level playing field?” he asked. “It’s simply unexcusable.”

After his appearance, Romney took questions from reporters and was pressed on whether he supports the Medicare plan in the budget drafted and approved by the Republican-controlled House. A Democratic outside fundraising group, Priorities USA Action, is running a television ad in South Carolina pressing Romney to take a position on the plan.

The controversial proposal, developed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, would replace the current government-run Medicare program with a voucher system that would allow recipients to buy health care on the private market.

Conservatives have embraced the plan as a responsible way to lower the costs of entitlements while Democrats have accused Republicans of plotting to destroy Medicare.

Asked twice about whether he supports Ryan’s plan, Romney responded that he will roll out his own ideas for Medicare at a later date but blasted the president for not coming up with his own solution.

While he applauded Ryan for thinking seriously about fixing the entitlement debt burden, Romney said Ryan's plan “is not the same as my plan.”

“The Ryan plan and my plan are on the same page," he said. "We have the same objectives. My plan is different than his. It’s not identical.”

Romney said it would be “premature” to venture into specifics about his own proposals because he is not yet an official candidate, and referred reporters to some Medicare parameters he outlined in his 2010 book “No Apology: The Case For American Greatness.”


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Patrick from Minnesota

    State's Rights? Really? Does this guy really want to return us to the Civil War Era?

    May 21, 2011 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  2. klarg

    So now the chameleon is a "states-rights" fundamentalist. What will he be next week?

    May 21, 2011 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  3. Indy

    So Romney is not smart enough to know that there is no country in the world that has had success with state by state health care ? I thought he was a business man that could comprehend that healthcare only works by huge numbers which means either the whole country buys in or only the wealthy get proper coverage. It is very simple math and the reason that countries that have nation wide healthcare have success is because it is the whole country that pools the costs. Never in a million years will state by state healthcare work. I guess Mitt is not as smart as he tells everyone.

    May 21, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  4. The Prince of Common Cents

    The GOP's voucher-funded Medicare plan is their "ELEPHANT" in the room-not Romneycare!

    May 21, 2011 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Romney is Mormon, the Republicans know this, they call President Obama a Muslim and they know he's not. My point is, they don't like Romney because he's Mormon and they don't like President Obama because he's their distraction for not liking Mormons.

    May 22, 2011 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  6. BeverlyNC

    Why would Romney want to repeal a healthcare plan he invented and implemented as Governor of MA?? It works, has saved money, and the citizens of MA love it. What a hypocrite! Do Republicans stand for anything other than complete opposition to everything President Obama says or does?? That is not not leadership. It is a weak Party who has NO SOLUTIONS for anything.

    May 22, 2011 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  7. Ron

    Hey stupid, it's called the UNITED States of America. States rights do not and should not trump those of the union. And, you want to be president?? What a joke.

    May 22, 2011 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  8. Marie MD

    Does he know that Massachusetts is number two in the nation for healthcare? SC is 41?????
    About the Beoign plant, or any other business in SC, has he been hiding under a rock in the last two/three years? SC is a mess and it's going backward or everything from health care to education (not that they care, of course, keep them fat and stupid for the tea baggers). I wouldn't visit as a tourist much less live down there.
    I also want to know how did a bottom of the barrel state governor like haley become the go to person for the party of hell no. Oops, excuse me, the tea baggers took over. I forgot. I hope she is not waiting for her other bookend from AK to run so she can sposor her. LOL

    May 22, 2011 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  9. Charlie

    The Medicare voucher system is a great idea. This will let people search for and buy the plan that best suits their needs. In the process it will cause competition which in turn creates efficiency and cuts cost. The U.S. learned a long time ago with the Sherman Anti-Trust laws that monopolies are bad. The Government does not need to be in the Health Insurance business.

    The Government need to focus on its core function, Governing.

    May 22, 2011 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  10. BewareOfFlipFloppers

    So Mitt vows to trash Obama's healthcare plan immediately; but no mention of his own clone: Romney-care This hypocrite will say anything to get elected. Creepy.

    May 22, 2011 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  11. Marry

    …from the roughly 30-member audience… Wait until he has to explain to ALL the potential voters what his “solutions” are. (I am sure he has none!) He is becoming the champion of the far right and is "barking" already pretty loud! Do we want THAT in the White House? I agree – no, we don't!

    May 22, 2011 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  12. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on America!

    Mittens sure is doing his best to come across as another GOBP birthbaggin' nutjob, complete with his utter ignorance of the Constitution, labor law and the ACA. The ACA already allows states to experiment with health care alternatives, so it looks like Mittens is implicitly endorsing the current law yet again. And the Boeing case is all about retaliatory labor practices, which have been the law in America for about a century. Nice, though, to see his mask come off and he shows his true teatard colors by attacking the very movement (labor) that gave us things like vacations and the two-day weekend. I'm quite sure he and his Greedy Old Pig cronies would like nothing better than to return to power and impose the old corporate feudalism so popular in the 1800s.

    May 22, 2011 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  13. John

    The Reason why Mitt Romney doesn't want to tell American people his plan for Medicare Is because he know It will make the American people just as mad and he doesn't want people mad at him until he win and than It will be to late. Make him tell us the American people now , we have the right to know want the truth Is. And If his Plan Is any were close to the Paul Ryan Plan It will be a Bunch of Crap to.

    May 22, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
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