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Romney calls Obama 'out of touch' at North Huntingdon campaign stop

| Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 12:24 p.m.

Mitt Romney sharpened his attacks on President Obama's economic and health-care policies in appearances at a Westmoreland County business and a Pittsburgh fundraiser on Tuesday.

“He has to recognize that his policies have failed to get Americans work again,” Romney told a crowd of more than 1,000 people at Horizontal Wireline Services in North Huntingdon, which runs wires into gas and oil wells to help extract Marcellus shale gas. “I have an answer for him: liberal policies don't make jobs.”

Later, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor attended a fundraiser at the Duquesne Club, Downtown, where tickets ranged from $2,500 for the reception to $50,000 for a private dinner. More than 300 tickets were sold.

Between the rally and Duquesne Club, he raised money at a private residence whose owner the campaign did not disclose.

Romney continued a Republican line of attack on remarks Obama made Friday, when the president said, “If you've got a business, you didn't build that.”

Obama supporters say the president was referring to the educational, electronic and physical infrastructure built publicly that helps businesses thrive. Romney said the comment shows a misunderstanding of the economy.

“We all welcome and realize the need for firemen, policemen, people who build roads and teachers; they're very important to our society. But government did not give us those people. We're paying for them,” Romney said at the Duquesne Club fundraiser.

At the rally, Romney called Obama's remark “insulting.”

“The idea to say that Steve Jobs didn't build Apple, that Henry Ford didn't build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn't build Papa John Pizza ... you go down the list,” Romney said. “... it is insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America, and it's wrong.”

Romney said Obama is “out of touch with America, and that is what is going to put him out of office.”

A few protesters stood at the entrance to Horizontal Wireline Services, some carrying signs stating, “Romney: Release your tax returns.” Organizers of a protest outside the Duquesne Club said between 100 and 200 people attended, but they were gone by the time Romney arrived.

“Our democracy is being sold to the highest bidder,” said Aaron Black, an Occupy Wall Street protester for New York who said he came to Pittsburgh for the protest.

Romney said the wealthy won't be as affected by the election as the middle class and millions of un- and under-employed workers.

“Most of you are going to do just fine whether I'm elected or not,” Romney told donors in the opulent banquet room, where four displays of red, white and blue star-shaped balloons floated beneath four large chandeliers. “People at the very high end are going to find a way to do fine. It's the middle class that's going to suffer if the president is re-elected.”

Romney told rally-goers that the health care system is unaffordable for many and needs to be reformed. “But Obamacare is not the answer, and we have to replace it.”

He drew cheers from the crowd in North Huntingdon by criticizing Obama energy policies which, Romney said, restrict the coal and natural gas industries that supply many of the region's jobs.

State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, introduced Romney at the rally.

“Although Westmoreland County has more registered Democrats, last fall, for the first time since 1956, they elected two Republican county commissioners, and a majority of the row officers,” Ward said. “It takes a team to make this happen, and we need all of your help.”

Obama lost Westmoreland County by nearly 17 percentage points to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in 2008.

Though Pennsylvania as a whole hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, Romney's visit occurs less than two weeks after Obama rallied thousands of supporters at Carnegie Mellon University.

“People ask me, ‘Can a Republican really win Pennsylvania?' I hate to say it, but, ‘Duh,'” Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who was elected in 2010, said during his brief introduction of Romney at the Duquesne Club Among the crowd at the fundraiser were state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Bradford Woods, House Speaker Sam Smith of Punxsutawney, congressional candidate Keith Rothfus of Edgeworth and U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith of Armstrong County.

Hammering Obama's energy policy could solidify support among Western Pennsylvania voters who have been trending Republican in recent elections, said Lara Brown, political science professor at Villanova University.

“His message on energy prospects can gain him support of both blue- and white-collar voters who are dissatisfied with the president's policies,” she said.

Steve Dancisin, 70, and wife, Kathi, of North Huntingdon, rushed from serving Meals On Wheels to hear the candidate at the rally.

“I'm really glad I came to hear him. I mostly voted Democrat my whole life — except in the last election. I voted for Ronald Reagan, too, but I'm voting for Mitt this year,” Dancisin said. “This guy has at least had a job in the private sector.”

Paul Peirce and Salena Zito are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Staff writer Mike Wereschagin contributed to this report.

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