Likely GOP presidential nominee talks economy, women’s issues in speech at Mendenhall Inn
By P.J. D’Annunzio, Staff Writer, KennettTimes.com
PENNSBURY — Just hours after Rick Santorum announced the suspension of his 2012 campaign for the White House, de facto Republican presidential nominee, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, took to the podium at the Mendenhall Inn to rally support from his Chester County constituency.
The Chester County Republican Committee’s annual spring dinner — held in the packed Mendenhall ballroom — featured prominent Republican leaders and contributors from around the Delaware Valley, including U.S. Senator Pat Toomey — originally slated as the dinner’s prime attraction. When the Romney campaign added southern Chester County to its itinerary just days before the dinner, it was Toomey who graciously provided Romney’s introduction.
At 7:45 PM Romney approached the podium to thunderous applause from his supporters. He began by praising Santorum, the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, for his determination and support of Republican principals.
“He waged a spirited and energetic campaign,” Romney said, “He has stood for issues of significance that will remain in the public discourse and he will without question remain a major spokesman in our party…he’s earned that by virtue of his effort not only as a senator but also by his work in his campaign. I look forward to joining him in this effort.”
The talk, of course, was not limited to Santorum’s conclusion in the presidential race. The focus of Romney’s message was rebuilding the economy, intertwined with a response to allegations that he — through his proposed policies on birth control and Planned Parenthood — is an enemy of women.
“I had the privilege of starting off this afternoon in Delaware and meeting with about 12 women, each of them owners and senior if not chief executives of their respective firms,” Romney said. “It’s interesting how they felt the government is waging war on their businesses…these individual women were pointing out to me how difficult it is in these Obama years for small business to be successful.
“At the same time we spoke about entrepreneurialism,” he continued, “That entrepreneurial spirit is still there…and yet this economy and this president have made things harder. He speaks of a war on women—let me remind him of something: the real war on women has been waged by the policies of the Obama administration. Did you know that of all the jobs lost in the Obama years, 92.3% are women? In these Obama years women have suffered.”
But not all gathered on the grounds of Mendenhall Inn appeared to agree with Romney’s claims for supporting women’s equity. Members of the group Women on Watch picketed the fundraiser along with members of the Chester County Democratic Commitee in a display of opposition against Romney.
“There are a lot of things that Mitt Romney says he stands for — depending on the day — that we don’t think are very good for the country, certainly not for the people,” Chester County Democratic Committee member Bill Schoell said. “His recent stand on reproductive rights, his insistence to repeal Obama Care, his positions on income tax, the fact that his company — Bain Capital — lobbied hard for the income tax rate he pays while he stands up there and says ‘I’m only paying the 15% I’m supposed to pay,’ the jobs he’s cost the American public; these are all things that are detrimental not only to women but the nation.”
Still, women in the Republican Party continue to show staunch support for Romney’s campaign.
“I have no idea who ‘Women on Watch’ are. I did see one sign about contraception — perhaps they think that everyone should pay for women’s contraception,” Pocopson Republican Committeewoman Andrea Gosselin said. “I don’t believe that contraception is healthcare. I think that if women don’t want to get pregnant that it’s their own responsibility to take care of and not anybody else’s responsibility to pay for their desire not to get pregnant.”
That sentiment was shared by another female Republican, Kennett Township Republican Committeewoman and University of Delaware professor Dr. Kathleen Brewer-Smyth.
“Not all women are following the biased media that is projecting the incorrect image that a woman says everyone else should pay for whatever she wants, for her benefits,” she said. “Benefits are just that; it’s not a mandate it’s not an entitlement. The reason we don’t have as many jobs here is because we demand too much. If we stop demanding there’d be more employers willing to have a business and employ more people. We need a balance…it takes away the work ethic when things are given away.”
Romney continued to focus on the economy, stating that President Obama’s economic policies are pushing the nation into a European Socialist model where a strong central government controls multiple facets of individual life and private enterprise.
“We are headed toward a European-style welfare state,” he said.
His speech also touched on the reduced military spending of the Obama administration and America’s role as a global power.
“It seems that the only place [Obama] is willing to cut deeply is the military,” he said. “I don’t think the world has become safer. I think the president’s failures internationally will have just as many long-lasting effects and ramifications as his failures domestically…his plan is to cut the navy, cut the air force; our Navy is smaller than any time since 1917 and our air force is older and smaller than any time since it was founded in 1947…we should take our shipbuilding from 9 to 17 a year, we should by more F-35’s, and we should add 100,000 active duty personnel…America’s military might is the greatest ally peace has ever known.”
Applause erupted once more as Romney concluded his speech and stepped down from the podium to greet his sponsors. The mood among Republicans in attendance was elated with high expectations for Romney’s bid for the White House.
Toomey, in an interview with The Times following the dinner said he shared that enthusiasm about Romney and his prospects for the fall.
“I think he has much more sensible regulation, lighter regulation, offers a federal government that lives within its budget and its means so that it doesn’t threaten small business with huge, threatening, staggering finance costs. He proposes lower taxes and a simplified tax code that’s good for small business. Those are the things I think will be enormously helpful, of course for everyone across the country, but Chester County as well.”
Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, a Pennsbury resident, acknowledged that Romney’s race to unseat President Obama would be challenging, but expressed optimism about the November election.
“I think it will be a tight race. I think he will generate a lot of enthusiasm in the Republican party. I think it will be an interesting race, but I am hopeful that Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States.”