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Romney says his business, political acumen gives him edge

Takes on Perry, president in N.H. campaign stops

ON THE ATTACK The former governor said Obama’s social agenda and lack of private-sector experience have impeded the economic recovery. ON THE ATTACK
The former governor said Obama’s social agenda and lack of private-sector experience have impeded the economic recovery.
By Glen Johnson
Globe Staff / August 16, 2011

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LITCHFIELD, N.H. - Mitt Romney said yesterday that his blend of private-sector and government experience makes him uniquely qualified to be president among his fellow Republican contenders - and Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.

Reacting to Rick Perry’s weekend entry into the GOP race, Romney said he liked the Texas governor personally but believed his own 25-year career as a venture capitalist left him better suited to create jobs.

Yet he also differentiated himself from the only other former business executive in the field, onetime Godfather’s Pizza chief executive Herman Cain, by embracing his four-year tenure as governor of Massachusetts.

“I think understanding how the economy works by having worked in the real economy is finally essential for the White House, and I hope people recognize that,’’ Romney told reporters after touring and addressing employees at a small manufacturing firm.

“I respect the other people in this race, but I think the only other person that has that kind of extensive privat-sector experience, besides me, in the Republican race is Herman Cain. And I respect Herman Cain, but I also think it’s helpful to have had that government experience that I’ve had,’’ said Romney.

Later, in concluding a town hall-style meeting in Plymouth, Romney said his experience with both small and big business development would be a special asset in any general election debate against Obama.

“When he says, ‘Oh, my stimulus worked,’ I’ll be able to say, ‘No, it didn’t; let me tell you why not. I understand how the economy works. Let me tell you what it did,’ ’’ Romney told about 40 people at the Common Man restaurant in Plymouth.

Perry declared his candidacy on Saturday and jumped into a race reshaped by Michele Bachmann’s Iowa straw poll win and Tim Pawlenty’s departure from the campaign on Sunday.

With Texas leading the country in job creation, Perry threatens to match Romney’s executive experience and undercut his jobs pitch, while also exuding the personal touch that some see the former businessman lacking.

Touring the Iowa State Fair, Perry said: “Take a look at his record when he was governor. Take a look at my record.’’

According to The New York Times, he added: “Running a state is different than running a business.’’

He also jabbed at Romney, who is largely skipping Iowa and its first-in-the-nation caucuses to concentrate on New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary. Romney owns a vacation home in the state and is better known because of his governorship across the border.

“If you’re not in Iowa, you ain’t happening,’’ said Perry, even though Romney was in the state two days last week before the Texan entered the race.

The Litchfield manufacturing firm, New England Small Tube, primarily makes tubing used in medical devices. It also made the probe used to poke a hole in the top of Keurig coffee containers before losing the contract to a Chinese manufacturer.

During his remarks to company employees, Romney said he will soon unveil a plan to trim the federal workforce and bring its pay and benefits in line with the private sector.

“We got too many of them and they’re paid too much,’’ he said in a statement sure to please small-government Tea Party backers.

Romney also slammed Obama’s handling of the recession, saying the president’s social agenda and lack of private-sector experience have impeded the nation’s economic recovery.

“The president points out that he inherited a recession, and he did. But he made it worse,’’ said Romney. He cited the administration’s energy, health care, and financial regulatory policies to buttress that comment.

And he joined several other GOP contenders who have urged Obama to call Congress back early from its summer recess to address the fragile economy and high unemployment.

“The president this week is in three states on a bus tour. And he’s going to be going on a vacation to Martha’s Vineyard for 10 days. I wish the president were in Washington calling back Congress and dealing with the challenges we have,’’ said Romney. “In some respects, I think he’s more concerned about keeping his job than spending the time necessary to help Americans get their jobs.’’

Romney’s focus on Obama came as the president launched his own counteroffensive amid record-low approval ratings.

The Democrat traveled to Minnesota yesterday to begin a three-day bus tour that would also take him to Iowa and then on to his home state of Illinois.

Romney noted the approval rating with his own tweak.

“That is not because he is not campaigning; that is because he is not leading,’’ he said at New England Small Tube.

Romney tried to preempt the trip, which he dubbed “President Obama’s Magical Misery Tour,’’ by releasing a new Web video this morning that features Minnesotans complaining about the president and his policies.

“In the last election I voted for Barack Obama and I just feel like I can’t’’ again, said one of those in the video, Joseph Bromley of Minnetonka, Minn.

Such videos have become a staple that either preview Romney’s appearance in a state or the president’s.

On Thursday, Obama is slated to fly to Martha’s Vineyard to begin a family vacation scheduled to last until Aug. 28.

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.

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