Romney pledges bipartisanship in final push

Associated Press + More

By KASIE HUNT and STEVE PEOPLES, Associated Press

MORRISVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney sprinted through battleground states on Sunday with a renewed pledge to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington.

He also promised to pursue an agenda that would alienate most Democrats on his first day in office.

In campaign stops in Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Romney reminded voters that on Day One, he would begin to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health care law. He also wants to weaken labor unions and overturn Democrat-backed legislation that overhauled the nation's financial system.

But the polarizing priorities are not his focus at swelling rallies in the presidential contest's final hours.

With an eye toward undecided voters — women and independents in particular — Romney is vowing to work closely with "good Democrats" if elected. The pledge of bipartisan cooperation fueled Obama's candidacy four years ago and remains a key piece of the incumbent's message. But for Romney, the bipartisan appeal became the focus of his closing argument only in recent weeks.

"On Nov. 6 we're going to come together for a better future. On Nov. 7, we'll get to work," Romney told an Iowa crowd estimated at 4,400. "You reach across the street to that neighbor with the other yard sign. And I'll reach across the aisle to people in the other party, people in good faith, because this time demands bringing America together."

But beyond recent campaign trail speeches, there is little sign that Romney has laid the groundwork to bridge the partisan divide in Washington.

He offers a distinctly partisan tone in a new ad running in North Dakota this week, urging voters there to elect Senate candidate Rick Berg to "stop the liberal Reid-Pelosi agenda."

And Romney had little, if any, communication with Democratic leaders in recent days as he monitored the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He reached out to East Coast governors for updates, but only Republicans.

His campaign would not say whether Romney's transition team, which has already begun to craft legislation and executive orders designed for release on his first day in office, has reached out to Democrats on Capitol Hill.

"I don't think there's been any outreach," adviser Kevin Madden said aboard Romney's campaign plane Sunday. "Once we win, I think the governor is going to do his best to work with as many folks as possible."

Romney's Day One agenda includes a plan he dubbed the "Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act" to cut nondiscretionary spending by 5 percent. He also promises to issue what he calls "An Order to Pave the Way to End Obamacare" and an "Order to Empower American Businesses and Workers" that would reverse policies "that tilt the playing field in favor of organized labor," according to Romney's website.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has already vowed to block what he calls Romney's "tea party agenda."

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry told The Associated Press on Sunday that Romney's promise to begin to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as "Obamacare," on Day One is "an invitation to total gridlock."

Kerry also questioned Romney's record of bipartisanship in Massachusetts, where Kerry served as a senator while Romney was governor. He said he could count on a single hand his interactions with Romney in those years.

"The mythology of his record in Massachusetts is extraordinary," Kerry said.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, of Illinois, also questioned Romney's bipartisan credentials on Sunday. "If Mitt Romney was such an effective bipartisan governor of Massachusetts, why has he refused to campaign there?" he told The Associated Press.

Asked about Democrats' criticism, Romney surrogate Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Sunday on CNN that "to have that kind of response from the Democrats in Congress is discouraging, but, look, I think at the end of the day even Harry Reid and even the Democrats who might take that point of view at this point are going to say we've got to solve these problems."

Indeed, Obama, too, offered a cooperative tone while campaigning in New Hampshire on Sunday.

"As long as I'm president I will work with anybody of any party to move this country forward," Obama said. "If you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you'll vote for leaders who feel the same way, whether they are Democrats or Republicans or independents."

At a freezing rally that brought 20,000 supporters to a Pennsylvania farm, Romney jabbed Obama's inability to work with Congress.

"It's not only Republicans he's refused to listen to. It's also independent voices," he said of Obama, without elaborating.

At a Cleveland afternoon event he added: "You hoped President Obama would live up to his promise to bring people together to solve big problems. But he hasn't. And I will."

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