Romney pledges bipartisanship in final push

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney steps on stage to speak at a campaign event at the Iowa Events Center  Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
View photos
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney steps on stage to speak at a campaign event at the Iowa Events Center Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney crisscrossed the nation on Sunday renewing his pledge to bring a fresh spirit of cooperation to Washington.

He's also promising to pursue an agenda that would alienate most Democrats on his first day in office.

In the first of four campaign stops on Sunday, Romney reminded Iowa voters that on Day One, he would begin to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health care law. He also wants to weaken labor unions and overturn Democrat-backed legislation that overhauled the nation's financial system.

But the polarizing priorities are not his focus at swelling rallies in the presidential contest's final hours.

With an eye toward undecided voters — women and independents in particular — Romney is vowing to work closely with "good Democrats" if elected. It's a message that fueled Obama's candidacy four years ago and remains a key piece of the incumbent's message. But for Romney, the bipartisan appeal became the focus of his closing argument only in recent weeks.

"On Nov. 6 we're going to come together for a better future. On Nov. 7, we'll get to work," Romney told an Iowa crowd estimated at 4,400. "You reach across the street to that neighbor with the other yard sign. And I'll reach across the aisle to people in the other party, people in good faith, because this time demands bringing America together."

But beyond recent campaign trail speeches, there is little sign that Romney has laid the groundwork to bridge the partisan divide in Washington.

He offers a distinctly partisan tone in a new ad running in North Dakota this week, urging voters there to elect Senate candidate Rick Berg to "stop the liberal Reid-Pelosi agenda."

And Romney had little, if any, communication with Democratic leaders in recent days as he monitored the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He reached out to East Coast governors for updates, but only Republicans.

And his campaign would not say whether Romney's transition team, which has already begun to craft legislation and executive orders designed for release on his first day in office, has reached out to Democrats on Capitol Hill.

"I don't think there's been any outreach," adviser Kevin Madden said aboard Romney's campaign plane Sunday. "Once we win, I think the governor is going to do his best to work with as many folks as possible."

Romney's Day One agenda includes a plan he dubbed the "Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act" to cut nondiscretionary spending by 5 percent. He also promises to issue what he calls "An Order to Pave the Way to End Obamacare" and an "Order to Empower American Businesses and Workers" that would reverse policies "that tilt the playing field in favor of organized labor," according to Romney's website.

Democrats have already vowed to block what they call Romney's "tea party agenda."

"Mitt Romney's fantasy that Senate Democrats will work with him to pass his 'severely conservative' agenda is laughable," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said recently. "Senate Democrats are committed to defending the middle class, and we will do everything in our power to defend them against Mitt Romney's tea party agenda."

Asked about Reid's comments, Romney surrogate Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Sunday on CNN that "to have that kind of response from the Democrats in Congress is discouraging, but, look, I think at the end of the day even Harry Reid and even the Democrats who might take that point of view at this point are going to say we've got to solve these problems."

Indeed, Obama, too, offered a cooperative tone while campaigning in New Hampshire on Sunday.

"As long as I'm president I will work with anybody of any party to move this country forward," Obama said. "If you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you'll vote for leaders who feel the same way, whether they are Democrats or Republicans or independents."

In Iowa, Romney said that only he can work with Congress.

"He's ignored them, he's attacked them, he's blamed them," Romney said of the president. "And remember the debt ceiling? That's going to come up again. And then there'll be a threat of shutdown and default as there has been before. And that freezes the economy."

The Republican continued: "I'll bring people together. I won't just represent one party, I'll represent one nation."