Romney Dishes It Out in Georgia

Romney serves up criticism and pancakes in Georgia

By SHARE

Mitt Romney swung briefly into Georgia on Sunday, to serve up pancakes laced with cinnamon and attacks at President Obama laced with barbs for his GOP rivals.

While Romney trails both Georgia native and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in statewide polling, thousands of supporters still crowded into the cafeteria of Brookwood High School in Snellville to hear the Republican presidential front-runner make his Southern case.

"One thing I know - we've got to get Barack Obama out of the White House. He's failed the American people," Romney said to applause in the Atlanta suburb, after dishing up pancakes alongside his wife, Ann, for about 15 minutes.

And though he criticized the president on breaking promises of reducing the deficit, keeping down unemployment and taxes, he also found opportunities to needle Gingrich and Santorum.

[Read: GOP Gouges Obama on Gas Prices.]

"I hope you understand the significance of this race, but we've got to nominate somebody who can beat him," Romney said of Obama. "And to beat him, I believe it's critical for the person that we nominate has credibility when it comes to the economy, not someone who can just spout the words that they've read but someone who's actually lived in the economy."

He then recounted his resume, including that he started his own investment firm, run other businesses and helped run the Olympics in addition to serving as governor of Massachusetts.

"I've spent my life in the private sector. We need someone who knows the economy because I believe that in order to create jobs it helps to have had a job," Romney said in a veiled swipe at perhaps both Gingrich and Santorum, who his campaign has labeled 'career politicians.'

Later, during a question and answer period with the audience, Romney was asked what he would do to lower gas prices. He explained he would open up more federal land to drilling, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and authorize the Keystone pipeline project that would carry Canadian oil through the United States.

[Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.]

"I'm not going to come here and pander to you and say 'here's what the gas price will be' if I do all those things," Romney added, in a rebuke of Gingrich who has been promising gas prices of $2.50 if he's elected. "But I can tell you this –if we develop that energy here in the United States, it will help hold prices down. We'll also keep the money here in the United States, creating jobs here."

Romney breezed through his stump speech, omitting parts of his standard version that relies heavily on quoting 'America the Beautiful,' before fielding a half a dozen questions on topics from the depressed housing market to Syria.

An 11-year-old asked Romney about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and he responded with a claim he's made before.

"If Barack Obama is re-elected Iran will get a nuclear weapon and the world will change," Romney said. "And I'm not willing to let your generation have to worry about (that)."

But when it comes to Syria, Romney said he's not ready to intercede directly.

"I'm not looking for a direct military intervention in Syria at this stage," he said. "It's important to underscore the human tragedy that's going on there, that [President Bashar al-Assad] is attacking his own people. But at this stage I'm not anxious to employ military action. Syria is a far more serious military defender than was Libya."

[See photos of the 2012 GOP candidates.]

Also in his response, Romney acknowledged the link Syria provides Iran to both the sea and to Hezbollah in Lebanon and emphasized the importance of making an effort to "be doing everything in our power to encourage those that are looking for freedom in Syria."

He then pivoted his response to a rebuff of Obama's leadership in the Middle East.

"This is a bright speck in the Middle East right now and we need to take advantage of it," Romney said. "But the president has failed the Arab Spring; it's become an Arab winter in many respects and I want to make sure that we stand with voices that share our values."