Romney raps GOP rivals' government backgrounds

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By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — If Mitt Romney is rattled by polls showing presidential rival Rick Santorum nipping at his heels, he didn't show it Monday at an outdoor rally with about 2,500 people.

The former Massachusetts governor stuck to his usual campaign speech, saying his experience running businesses and the 2002 Winter Olympics makes him best qualified to be president. He didn't mention Santorum or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by name.

And his criticisms of President Barack Obama were familiar. Romney said Obama lacks crucial business experience and doesn't have enough faith in constitutional principles.

Obama "is slowly but surely turning us into a European-style welfare state," he said.

Romney's 25-minute speech in Mesa opened a week that he and his rivals will devote largely to fundraising. Romney plans to campaign Wednesday and Thursday in Michigan, where he was born. Arizona and Michigan hold Republican primaries on Feb. 28.

Polls show Santorum rising after his wins last week in caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota. Romney won Saturday's Maine caucuses.

Romney told the Mesa crowd that Texas Rep. Ron Paul was a doctor before entering Congress. But he said "the other guys have spent their life entirely in government."

He was referring to Gingrich and Santorum, both of whom spent about two decades in Congress.

"Let's not nominate somebody who has not run anything and has not been a leader," Romney said.

The crowd cheered, but Romney seemed rushed at times, and occasionally struggled to be heard above protestors chanting outside the amphitheater on a pleasantly cool evening.

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