Julie Jacobson, Associated Press
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Casting himself as America's CEO, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Tuesday outlined a sweeping economic plan that would reduce regulations and taxes on companies, sanction China over its currency practices and weaken the clout of labor unions.
Trying to hold off surging rival Rick Perry, Romney traveled to economically suffering Nevada and stood inside a giant truck warehouse to deliver his multi-point plan designed to position him as the GOP contender with the most comprehensive approach to fixing the economy.
"This is a business plan for America," Romney told supporters as he promoted his plan as one designed to modernize an economy he says is still oriented toward earlier decades — and held up General Electric CEO Jack Welch and former Apple CEO Steve Jobs as "real deal" leaders in the U.S. economy.
It's a version of the economic pitch Romney has been making throughout the campaign so far — but it's now been sharpened to highlight how his private-sector record contrasts with Perry, the Texas governor, who has held elected office for more than two decades. In his speech Tuesday, Romney barely mentioned his own four years as governor of Massachusetts.
Perry's campaign sharply criticized Romney immediately after the address. "As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney failed to create a pro-jobs environment," Perry spokesman Mark Miner said in a statement. When Romney was governor, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 in job creation.
Romney's plan calls for reducing or eliminating several taxes, extracting more U.S. oil, coal and natural gas, expanding trade pacts and slashing federal spending. His campaign distributed the 160-page booklet, and Romney explained it in an at-times rambling speech delivered without prepared text or a teleprompter.
Democrats called Romney's plan wrong-headed and doomed to fail. Taxes already are near historic lows, they noted, and many employers say weak consumer demand is more troubling than taxes or regulation.
Romney portrayed his plan as a bold vision to lower the nation's unemployment rate, now at 9.1 percent.
"America should be a job machine: jobs being created all the time, people looking for employees to join their enterprises," he said.
Many of his proposals are not new, although they could cause fierce debates in Congress if pursued. He would seek a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, cut non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent, eliminate the estate tax and undo the 2010 health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama.
The jobs plan is Romney's first major policy statement since he announced his candidacy in June. It came two days ahead of Obama's scheduled speech on jobs before a joint session of Congress.
Romney's campaign predicted that his overall plan would lead to 4 percent annual growth in the U.S. economy, and create 11.5 million new jobs over four years. The campaign did not provide details of how it reached those projections, which are certain to be challenged by Democrats, independent groups and perhaps his GOP rivals.
Winning congressional approval for such proposals could prove difficult even if Republicans keep their House majority in the 2012 elections and take over the Senate. Senate Democrats would likely retain filibuster powers.
First, of course, Romney must win the Republican nomination, which eluded him in 2008. Many party insiders saw him as this year's early front-runner until Perry jumped in and shot to the top of polls.
Texas has gained many thousands of jobs during Perry's decade as governor, pressuring Romney and the other contenders to convince GOP voters they can do a better job of attacking unemployment.
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