Election 2012: A Convention Preview in Michigan
But a joke leads to new controversy
COMMERCE, Michigan — Mitt Romney's road to the Republican National Convention in Tampa included a campaign stop on Friday in Michigan.
Despite a scorching sun, a crowd of about 9,300 people packed the Long Family Farm in Commerce, Michigan, in support of Romney, his wife, Anne Romney, and his running mate, Paul Ryan. It was a homecoming of sorts for Romney, who was born in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, about 15 miles away from the campaign event.
Michigan is thought to be a swing state in the November election. So it has been specifically important for the Romney and Obama campaigns to visit the state.
Romney was introduced by his running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the Chairman of the House Budget Committee.
"You have the sand and we have the rocks, but we all come from the same place," Ryan said, referring to proximity of his native state and Michigan, which is separated by Lake Michigan.
When Romney took the stage, his speech was a preview of the address that he will deliver at the Republican National Convention. The convention will take place Monday-Thursday, and Romney will speak on Thursday.
"We're not going to talk about just platitudes," Romney said. "We're going to be talking about these big challenges, the soul of America, and what makes this country unique and exceptional. Our way forward is the only way forward."
To accomplish this, Romney said he has a "five point plan" for American prosperity. "We need a President who believes in uniting the American people, not dividing them," he began. "Our way forward is the only way to bring prosperity to all people."
His plan includes:
• Becoming energy independent by utilizing energy resources.
• An education policy that "[puts] kids first, teachers first, and leaving unions behind."
• Creating trade plans that will help Americans.
• Balancing the budget and eliminating the debt.
• Lowering taxes to help small business and to repeal Obamacare.
Mary Hale, a Romney supporter, believes Romney and Ryan are a great team.
"We need so much change, where we're going is down, down, down and (Romney and Ryan) are trying to give us back who we are," Hale said. "We are the American people, we're independent, we don't need the government to telling us what we need to do, what we need to buy, and how we need to live. We need to be responsible for ourselves and we're capable."
Controversy Before the Convention
Even though the focus Romney's remarks was his plan for American prosperity, it was a controversial comment he made during his speech that had people talking.
In an attempt to highlight his Michigan roots, Romney reignited the "birth certificate issue."
President Obama was born in Hawaii, but some Conservatives have questioned his actual birthplace. These critics are called "birthers," and they believe Obama was actually born in Africa. This would make him ineligible to serve as President. (This claim was first made during the 2008 election by fringe supporters of Hillary Clinton, Obama's primary rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.)
The birthers have repeatedly demanded to see Obama's, and last April the President released his long-form birth certificate proving he was born in Hawaii. But some of the most extreme birthers were not satisfied by the document and called it a fake.
These birther claims have been rejected by many Conservatives, and Romney has insisted that he believes the President was born in the United States.
But at his campaign event on Friday, he cracked a joke that set off a flurry of controversy.
"Now I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both us of were born," Romney began. "Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place we were born and raised."
This was met with loud cheers from the crowd.
In an interview with CBS News, Romney said his comments were "not a swipe" to the President. Instead, they were meant to add humor to the campaign. He later added, "[Obama was] born in the U.S."
Ben LaBolt, Obama campaign spokesman, quickly released a statement following the event.
"Throughout this campaign, Gov. Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them," LaBolt said. "Gov. Romney's decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America."
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