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Romney tells builders his business background better qualifies him to fix the economy

    MIAMI — Former venture capitalist Mitt Romney asserted Friday he is better equipped than his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination — who all have more government experience — because ‘‘the only way to get America on track economically is to have a president who actually understands how the economy works.’’
    With fear of a recession growing, Romney tried to build on a strong debate performance the prior evening by reiterating his outsider’s credentials as a businessman. He blamed government paralysis in Washington for failure to expand health insurance coverage, end illegal immigration and wean the country from foreign oil.
    ‘‘And part of what we’re seeing right now in our economy is one of the manifestations of failing to act on the part of Washington,’’ Romney told a breakfast meeting of the Latin Builders Association Inc.
    The winner of Florida’s primary on Tuesday will get 57 GOP delegates; over 1,000 more will be chosen in more than 20 primaries and caucuses a week late.
    Playing on the decades he spent in private business while rivals John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee were in government, Romney said, ‘‘I happen to believe that the only way to get America on track economically is to have a president who actually understands how the economy works.’’
    Romney headed the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and was Massachusetts governor from 2003 to 2007 but spent most of his career as a business consultant and later founded Bain Capital.
    Romney has been accused of making millions through massive layoffs and heartless cost-cutting, but he said none of that was without personal pain or a greater goal in mind.
    ‘‘I’ve had to lay people off; it’s an awful feeling,’’ he said. ‘‘Someone who thinks that you’re a bad person if you lay someone off doesn’t understand. You feel bad. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve done in business, was asking a person to be let go, letting somebody go. ... It’s an indication the business isn’t doing well.’’
    McCain disagreed. Speaking to reporters on his bus elsewhere in Florida, McCain insisted his service on the Senate Commerce Committee is better preparation for overseeing the U.S. economy than Romney’s private-sector experience. He said the Commerce Committee has broad jurisdiction over every aspect of the economy.
    ‘‘Running an investment company is probably a good thing to do. Making national policy concerning our economy is probably more beneficial to the nation,’’ said McCain, who went on to criticize Romney’s economic record as governor. ‘‘He raised taxes by $730 million, and the flight of manufacturing jobs was double that of the national average. His health care plan, we now find, is $245 million in the red, according to the Boston Globe yesterday.’’
    Recalling his start as a venture capitalist, Romney said: ‘‘It takes a degree of chutzpah to go to someone and say, ‘Give me your money and I will invest it for you, and I’ll give you back 80 percent of the profit I earn, and I’m going to keep 20 percent of the profit I earn. I’m going to charge you a 2 percent fee for taking your money, and by the way, if I lose your money, too bad.’’’
    As the audience of several hundred builders laughed, he added: ‘‘I don’t share in the downside, I only share in the upside.’’

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