[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/22/art.romney0122.ap.jpg caption="Romney is focusing on an economic appeal to voters."]NAPLES, Florida (CNN) – The banner with the new slogan said it all, ‘ECONOMIC TURNAROUND.’ Tuesday’s news of the Federal Reserve’s emergency interest rate cut and nervous markets provided the ideal news peg for Mitt Romney’s economy-centric message to Florida’s primary voters.
“I think actually that what we're seeing in the stock market today is only one peek at what's been happening for some time in the overall economy,” Romney told reporters at a stop in Coral Springs. “We have some intractable problems that Washington has not been willing to solve.”
Romney began plugging his economy-in-peril message to voters in Michigan, a state with the country’s highest unemployment rate and an auto industry in deep trouble. But the role of Washington outsider with the financial experience to get America’s economy back on track is clearly one he feels comfortable with.
He is quick to remind audiences and the press of his 25 years in the private sector as a consultant and venture capitalist and caps off speeches telling crowds that it’s time for a president who’s had a job in the “real economy.”
Asked to characterize chief rival John McCain’s economic experience, he refused, saying, “I don’t think I would,” preferring to focus on own resume.
Rate cuts, market woes and the president’s stimulus package allow Romney’s talk of slashing taxes, investing in research and development and dealing with the housing crisis – all elements of his own stimulus package - to be particularly timely.
And he uses it as the bedrock of his stump speech, arguing that a strong economy will result in better schools, better health care and a stronger military.
The campaign trail this year is flush with solutions for the sputtering economy, but Romney has made his plan a central issue of his campaign.
Will his message resonate in Florida? “I must admit this is going to be a very tight race, it's going to be a very close race and it's going to be fun right down to the wire,” predicts Romney.
- CNN Political Producer Alexander Marquardt