When Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate, spoke on the plant floor of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry on Friday, he hammered the Affordable Health Care Act, excessive government and what he called President Obama's "old liberal policies from the past." He promised to get rid of some federal programs and shift others such as Medicaid, housing vouchers and food stamps back to state control. While he talked about the importance of innovative American businesses, he didn't link his views on less regulation to the $2 billion trading losses of JP Morgan bank, disclosed this week.
And he certainly didn't mention this week's adoption of a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage in North Carolina or Obama's endorsement of marriage equality.
Company owner Frank Dowd IV met Romney at a Charlotte fundraiser a few weeks ago and offered him Charlotte Pipe and Foundry as a rally site. "I never expected the call to come so soon," Dowd said when he introduced Romney on Friday. (The company has been in the Dowd family for 111 years and is a leading national producer of pipes and fittings.)
Dowd said he has long been a supporter of "pro-business candidates." GOP Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina was a cheerleader as well for the man he called "a real leader."
Democrats were not ceding any ground in the place where they will be holding their convention in September. On Friday morning, Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts and Raleigh small businessman Doug Leupen held a conference call to attack Romney's policies as the same failed plans that weakened the economy and triggered a recession. In a statement after Romney's appearance, Cameron French, North Carolina press secretary of Obama for America, said the Republican's "hastily arranged Charlotte speech today omitted the truth and was short on solutions or specifics."
If Romney had moved past social issues, several protesters outside the event had not. Obama supporter Pam Dix of Cornelius held a sign that said: "Stop the war on women," referring to conservative Republican views on birth control coverage.
"I thought that in the '60s we fought this fight," she said.
Jeff Kaiser, 67, voted for Obama in 2008 but told me he switched his party affiliation to Republican because he was disappointed in the president. The retired psychiatrist said he thinks Obama is "anti-business" and is "dividing the nation, racially and by income levels." Kaiser, wearing an NRA cap, said he was also interested in "defending the rights of gun owners."
But he isn't totally supportive of the presumptive nominee. Kaiser said that he felt Romney "went too far" in his conservative rhetoric on woman's reproductive rights and other social issues, and half-joked that his reputation as a "flip flopper" could mean he would soften those views. That quality "is not a bad thing in a politician," he said.
Kaiser is a vote Obama seems to have lost in North Carolina. But the president never had a chance with many of the hundreds who attended the Romney rally, particularly one woman I talked with.
"Thank God, Romney is a Christian," she said. "He's a full-fledged American." She was convinced the president was "born in Africa," and would not give me her name because, she said, "Obama might have me assassinated."
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's "She the People" blog, The Root, NPR and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her "Keeping It Positive" segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter
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