Romney in Utah, talks about health care, Iraq
By Nathan C. Gonzalez
The Salt Lake Tribune
A U.S. presence in Iraq will be required regardless of who takes control of the White House in 2009, said presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, during a campaign and fundraising stop Friday in Salt Lake City.
"We have to make sure we are successful in Iraq," the Republican former Massachusetts governor said. "We will have to maintain our presence there."
Although Romney added that he, too, wanted troops home from the war-torn country sooner rather than later, he said their presence is needed to keep Iraq from again becoming a "safe haven for al-Qaida."
Romney, however, declined to offer a timeline to begin troop withdrawals, but said he would ensure the nation's military remains strong. He also promised to help states extend privatized, universal health care to all residents.
A plan for health care coverage unveiled by the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Sen. Hillary Clinton, of New York, calls for $110 billion in government monies to fund the coverage, and calls for federal oversight, Romney said.
"Mine says let each state craft its own program with federal support. What works in Massachusetts may not work in Texas," Romney said, noting that health care was extended to all Massachusetts residents without any additional government spending.
The comments came as more than 600 campaign supporters pried open phone books and began placing calls to siphon cash from Utahns. However, campaign organizers said they would not know how much money was raised from the event until today.
The visit to the Salt Palace was a homecoming of sorts for Romney, who oversaw the organization of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
"Those were the best three years of my life. We hosted the best Olympic games ever," he said. "We owe a great deal to the people of Utah. It's a thrill to be back in Salt Lake."
Romney, who has taken heat and several questions about his Mormon faith, has found broad support in Utah. He has also gained ground in some primary states, advancing in the polls from a single-digit long shot, to a double-digit top-tier candidate.
In Iowa - where no Republican presidential candidate has won without the state's support - 8 percent of party voters backed Romney in January. Eight months later, he has since moved to 31.5 percent, according to campaign officials. Again in Michigan, where early into the year, Romney registered only 9 percent, he has since increased to 26 percent in September.
Increased support is indicative of advertising directed at delivering Romney's message to voters, said Spencer Zwick, financial director for Romney's campaign.
"We have the right candidate," Zwick said. "This campaign is about bringing change to the country."