INDIANAPOLIS — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is praising Gov. Mitch Daniels' leadership and bashing President Barack Obama's.
Romney told a crowd of Republican Hoosiers gathered at the JW Marriott Friday evening that he's the best positioned man to win back the White House for Republicans. The top-tier presidential candidate also attended a pair of fundraisers in the state.
Daniels' national prominence and image of fiscal responsibility has become a strong draw for Republican candidates looking for his possible endorsement.
"Indiana is proof conservative principles work in government," Romney said to cheers from the crowd.
Romney spent much of his time attacking President Barack Obama as inexperienced and lacking private-sector skills. But he also took a veiled swipe at his chief Republican opponent Texas Gov. Rick Perry, repeating his criticism of Perry's support for in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants without mentioning the governor by name.
Romney criticized new financial and environmental regulations and federal healthcare reform as examples of the Obama administration being too controlling. Although he did not talk about his signing of a healthcare bill when he was Massachusetts governor in 2006 that established the nation's first healthcare mandate.
Republican voters at the Friday event said they like Romney's image as a leader but could still be swayed to support other contenders.
Gretchen Hall, an Indianapolis Republican voter and Phyllis Tolin, a Carmel Republican voter, sat together near the back of the room Friday and listened to Romney's talk. Both women said they felt that Romney came off as less aloof and more at ease than when he was first campaigning for president in the 2008 race.
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They're also happy with his explanation of his healthcare bill, which Democrats and Republican opponents have dubbed "Romneycare." Romney has said that establishing a healthcare mandate should be a state-by-state decision, one that is not dictated by the federal government.
"He said that he thought it was the right thing for his state," Tolin said.
Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb has lobbied successfully since June to bring presidential candidates to what is typically an overlooked state in both Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.
Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman both campaigned here last month. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to visit Indianapolis Oct. 12.