DAVENPORT, Ia. – Presumed Republican candidate Mitt Romney on Monday delivered another sharp criticism of President Barack Obama’s recent comment that “the private sector is doing just fine.”

At a campaign stop here, Romney said he agreed with Obama that “every American deserves a fair shot,” but he blamed the president for a sluggish economic recovery and objected to policies such as Obama’s health care plan, energy policy, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and his executive order last week concerning immigration.

“Last time, his [Obama’s] slogan was hope and change; now he’s hoping to change the subject,” joked Romney, sparking raucous laughter from the crowd.

Romney quoted a 2009 Chamber of Commerce study of small businesses executives saying that of 1,500 small businesses surveyed, three-quarters were less likely to hire because of what he later referred to as “the big black cloud of Obamacare.”

Emphasizing what he said is a need to produce more coal, oil and natural gas within U.S. borders, Romney contended that Obama pumped tens of billions of dollars into companies that donated to his campaign such as bankrupted, solar energy company Solyndra.

Turning to the national debt, Romney said the president had “amassed more debt than all of the prior presidents combined.”

Although Romney has been arguing in recent weeks that the economy has been recovering too slowly during Obama’s term in office, several Republican governors, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, have said that view does not apply to their states. In Iowa, Branstad said the economy is doing fine, with a jobless rate of 5.1 percent, which is substantially below the national rate of 8.2 percent.

Monday, Romney praised Branstad and other governors in Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio for making “tough choices to hold down spending.”

To see a video from the event, click here

“I’m going to do something this president has spoken about but hasn’t done,” he said. “I’m going to get America on track to have a balanced budget; it’s immoral not to do so.”

Romney warned that if Obama won a second term, the U.S. would put itself on a path toward the kind of “fiscal calamity” seen in several countries in the European Union.

Romney said he would “restore the principles of freedom that made us the hope of the world.” He said, “I believe in dreamers coming here with their dreams of building enterprises.”

Last week, Obama, in announcing a new policy on immigration, also spoke about a group of children who he called “dreamers.”

The president said his administration’s action will “mend our nation’s immigration policy to make it more fair, more efficient, and more just – specifically for certain young people sometimes called ‘Dreamers.’

These are the children and adults under 30 who are in the U.S. illegally, because their immigrant parents brought them here. The new policy would give them a chance to go to school, work and live in the U.S. without fear of deportation if they meet certain conditions, such as having arrived in the U.S. in the last five years.

Obama issued the order after denouncing Republican filibusters in the U.S. Senate that has prevented passage of the Dream Act, a proposal that establishes a path toward earning citizenship for such children.

In response to an IowaWatch question, Romney said he has his own dream act-type of proposal, but he did not elaborate.

Faces In the Crowd

A crowd with mix opinions greeted former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney during his campaign stop in Davenport Monday.

Maria Dickmann, 24, from Davenport, a council organizer for MoveOn.org, a liberal organization, stood outside the event leading a group holding signs calling Romney “the president of the 1 percent.”

“Austerity is failing around the world right now,” she said. “We need a president who will keep the middle class and the public sector strong, and Romney’s record shows that he cares more about corporations and the 1 percent more than average Americans.”

Community Activist Ruben Aguilar, 39, of Rock Island, Ill, held a sign critical of Romney’s economic record. “He doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle,” Aguilar said. He said he’s worried about his Social Security and Medicare benefits being taken away from him and will be voting for Obama.

Ron Paul supporter Jason Kakert of Davenport brandished a “Vote Hemp” banner outside of the event, citing the potential for hemp to produce biofuels, food and clothing and criticizing the negative “stigma” around marijuana use. “Romney and Obama aren’t doing anything to address it,” he said. “It’s a matter of liberty.”

Romney’s supporters at the event directed their criticisms at Obama.

Sarah Grimm, 37, of Taylor Ridge, Ill., who attended with five young daughters, said she felt her children’s futures are doomed if no one replaces Obama.

“The last thing Obama did with immigration left a bad taste in my mouth,” she said.

Stan Reed, a financial advisor from Dewitt, Iowa, said, “Controlling our expenses and getting the deficit under control are the biggest issues this year. Simply raising taxes isn’t going to solve the problem.”

Obama has said he opposes raising taxes except for the rich.

Cody Hendricks, 19, a city councilman in Peoria, Ill., and sophomore-to-be at Eureka College, agreed with Romney’s message, but he said Republicans need to do more to reach out to young voters.

“Lower taxes and more jobs are the best way to bring young voters to our side,” he said. “Unemployment in Peoria is at 16.5 percent, and small businesses don’t have the incentive to hire.”

After the speech, as Romney shook hands with spectators, Steve Booth of Muscatine, Iowa, was walking away from the stage escorted by two policemen. Booth said he had asked Romney if he was going to repeal Obama’s executive order on immigration. After ignoring the question, Romney pointed the man out to Secret Service. “Romney asked me to leave, and I just want to know why.”

Doug Cropper, president and CEO of Genesis Health Care Systems in Davenport, has been a big Romney fan for many years. Even though he says health care has insulated economic reimbursement issues, he thinks Romney understands the ins and outs of the health care system and supports his plan to repeal Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

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