San Diego, California (CNN) - Speaking to an enthusiastic audience of several thousand on Memorial Day, Mitt Romney cast the presidential campaign as a choice between a candidate who supports a strong military and one who would shrink the defense budget and weaken the nation's armed forces.
The presumptive GOP nominee underlined the urgency of his message by warning supporters the world was "not safe."
– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
"I wish I could tell you that the world is a safe place today," he told an audience of roughly 5,000 people – many of them military families – at an outdoor park in San Diego. "It's not."
Romney offered a laundry list of geopolitical concerns from Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon, to Mexican drug cartels, to Russia's growing military.
"We have two courses we can follow," he said. "One is to follow the pathway of Europe, to shrink our military smaller and smaller to pay for our social needs."
As commercial planes rumbled overhead, descending toward a nearby airport, Romney suggested he would choose another path.
"The other is to commit to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world. We choose that course," he said. "We choose that course for America not just so that we can win wars, but so we can prevent wars. Because a strong America is the best deterrent to war that ever has been invented."
While Romney did not mention President Barack Obama by name, the president's 2013 budget proposal called for cuts in military spending.
Before the event, Romney supporter Sen. John McCain joined the presumptive GOP nominee in a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the nation's fallen service members.
McCain, a former prisoner-of-war who directed a stream of military jokes to an audience filled with veterans, said Romney was "fully qualified to be commander-in-chief" and vouched for his candidacy.
"He believes in American exceptionalism," McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, said. "He believes that the 21st century will also be an American century. And I am confident of his leadership and I know of his support for veterans and their families."
A recent Gallup tracking poll showed Romney leading Obama among veterans by 20%.
Gingrich's presidential advice: Raise money
Wisconsin recall's a 'test run,' DNC chair says
Giuliani gets over ego and praises Romney
Mitt Romney is a good man who has been forced to become something he is not to win the nomination from the Tea Partiers who has taken over the once-proud Republican party. Mitt has been on every side of every issue and I wonder if he truly knows where he stands on anything? The Tea Party R's do not want to govern – they want to rule. They are so desperate to get the African-American Democrat out of the White House that there is no limit to their dishonesty. Almost all reasonable Republicans have been kicked to the curb for not being "crazy enough" and replaced by far-right Tea Partiers with out any legislative experience and are willing to bring the county down to get their way. And the Republicans, elected by and paid for by the state they represent, have signed a pledge to Gordon Norquist to do his bidding – to do as they are told – instead of representing the people who elected them to office. As for the upcoming November election - it appears the Republicans want no government at all and the Democrats want a government that works for the population. How did the Republican party fall this far? Obama/Biden in 2012.
This kind of thinking is what makes us have enemies in the first place. It is an insult to our military to keep this none sense going for even one more day. These people who say we have to wind the war down responsibility floor me. War is anti responsible!!! We are pushing our selves closer to oblivion every day. Romney is here saying he will spread the tyranny farther, Obama is out there doing it with remote controled planes. We are truly headed for the dark ages again but only if we allow it. Right now most of you in here out right support it.
I definitely don't want what Romney wants. Period. This kind of thinking leads us to perpetual wars.
Mittens must have just woken up after a long long sleep. The world hasn't been safe for over a decade. This jamoke comes from the GWB school of leadership. Bomb the hell out them first and then make up a lame excuse later. He's dangerous and must be defeated for the good of the world.
You think this idiot deserves to POTUS???practically I do not think do. GOP is war mongers to loot this nation brainless and bankrupt, yes, on obama12. Period.
PS: you thin rational, just apply brain.
I am a military wife and mother and my husband and I both support President Obama. Our defense budget is bloated, and the republicans know it. They are just wanting to give their cronies more of the taxpayers money.
We have the largest and strongest military in the world by far. If we make it leaner and smarter, we will still have the largest and most powerful military. We also need to invest some of that money into our future – our infrastructure and the education of our children. We trust that our President sees this to be true and we want him to have another four years to do something about it.
The republicans always use fear to frighten their base into voting for them. I don't believe that "the world is not safe". I recently read some statistics that there are actually less wars, deaths and acts of terror now than in past decades. How about having a bit of optimism about the future?
Speaking from the standpoint of a veteran (I've served in the USMC and the Army) I can tell you that our military does NOT need more money, as the bug in Mitt's ear would have you believe. We need to cut some of the fat and streamline our defense goals, not go back to playing team America world police. Let's play the "fear people into voting" game eh? Absolutely laughable. And by the way, that Gallup nonsense is soooo far wrong it's not even funny. I live in a complex with over 100 other vets, and maybe 1/3 of them are voting for Mitt. Are you people REALLY in touch with who the population is? I doubt it.
Bold words for a draft dodger who can find it so easily to send troops off to fight in the wars that he and his five sons avoided at all costs.
Newsflash Mitt!!! The world has never been safe. There has always been wars. Mitt mentions the biggest military is so we can win wars. Tell me Mitt, what was the last war we won, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afganistan? 10 years of fighting in Iraq and Afganistan, billions of dollars ( not funded by tax increases ) and we have not won. Learn from history. At one time in the world England, France and Spain became world leaders, not anymore. Considering the U.S. puts more money into defence than the rest of the world. Ever consider that comments like McCain's " American exceptionalism " causes problems. There are enough problems in the U.S. such as poverty, the economy, failing education system and gun violence. What makes the U.S. exceptional?
Nope. The times, they are a'changin'. The days of massive land invasions are hopefully over after Bush destroyed our budget. Obama's using high value intelligence, unmanned drones, and small SEAL teams to replace huge standing armies and occupations. Saves money and is a lot more effective. Romney is trying to say that the more expensive, less effective methods are better simply because they cost more.