Romney ridicules 'secretary of business' proposed by Obama

Five days before the election, the GOP nominee's storm-related break from attack mode is over.

ROANOKE, Va. – After two days of canceled events and a break from direct attacks on President Obama, Mitt Romney returned on Thursday to his pre-hurricane campaign mode—slamming Obama for failed policies and his suggestion that the country should create a new Cabinet position for a secretary of Business.

“I don’t think adding a new chair in his Cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street,” Romney told a crowd of more than 2,000 at a window and door manufacturer in western Virginia.  

Obama talked about the idea, part of a consolidation plan he proposed in January, in an MSNBC interview on Monday. “We should have one secretary of Business, instead of nine different departments that are dealing with things like giving loans to [the Small Business Administration] or helping companies with exports. There should be a one-stop shop,” Obama said.

Romney said Obama’s lack of business experience has left him grasping at straws for a new idea that would boost the business community. “We don’t need a secretary of Business to understand business, we need a president who understands business, and I do,” Romney said to enthusiastic applause.

The GOP campaign released a TV ad on the same theme, signaling this line of attack will be part of Romney’s final push. “His solution to everything is to add another bureaucrat,” a voiceover says gravely in the ad, before suggesting that Americans elect “a president who actually understands business.”

On the trail here on Thursday, Romney also revived some of his best-received attack lines from earlier in the season. He told the owners of the manufacturing company that “they did build this,” and suggested that Obama’s slogan of “forward” should really be “forewarned.”

He also warned the crowd that they would face a dire situation if the president is reelected. “If the president were to be reelected, you’re going to see high levels of unemployment continue and stalled wage growth—if any wage growth at all—just like we’ve seen over the last four years,” Romney said.  

Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said Romney is lurching “from false attack to false attack” in the final days of his campaign. “The idea that Mitt Romney would help businesses grow as president doesn’t match his record or his policies. When the American auto industry and a million jobs were on the line, Romney turned his back, which is why he’s trying to rewrite history by telling desperate falsehoods to Ohio voters,” she said. She added that “independent economists agree his plans would do nothing to create jobs and could slow our recovery.”

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said Obama “very much wants to see action” on streamlining the federal government and his initial proposal on business is backed by the Chamber of Commerce and Republican John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable and the former governor of Michigan. Carney said the consolidation plan would save $3 billion over 10 years and offer “one location, one website, one phone number, one agency that handles all these different issues that have to deal with supporting American business and supporting exports.”

Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, echoed Romney’s mocking tone a few hours later in Greeley, Colo.

“Let me ask you a question, can anybody name our current secretary of Commerce?” Ryan asked the crowd. “You know why? We don't have one! It's been vacant for over four months and the president hasn't even proposed to put somebody in the job. We don't need another bureaucrat or another bureaucracy, we need another president.”

The position is filled by Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank, who took over after former Commerce Secretary John Bryson suffered a seizure that caused a car accident in June and resigned.

Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this story.

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