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Romney brings campaign to Tampa

The presidential candidate speaks to 500 Hillsborough County Republicans.

By Adam C. Smith
Published March 11, 2007


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TAMPA - He's campaigning hard for support from Republican social conservatives, but presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Saturday he disagreed with the government's intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.

"I think it's probably best to leave these kinds of matters in the hands of the courts," Romney said in a Political Connections interview that airs today on Bay News 9.

Polls showed most voters, including most Republicans, opposed Congress and the Florida Legislature intervening in 2005 to bypass court rulings and force the profoundly brain-damaged Pinellas woman's feeding tube to be reinserted. But Romney's position puts him at odds with a portion of the Republican base he's courting aggressively and with former Gov. Jeb Bush, many of whose key advisers and Florida donors are backing the former Massachusetts governor for president.

"I generally think that it's not a good idea for courts to legislate. Nor is it great idea for legislatures to adjudicate in a specific circumstance," Romney said in the taped interview that airs today at 11 a.m. "My view was a case like this would normally be left in the hands of a court. The people that are closest to the particular individual case involved would be the right people to decide which course should be taken."

Romney, 59, is building a formidable campaign operation early in Florida, and Saturday night he addressed 500 party activists at the Hillsborough County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day dinner fundraiser. He spoke to Miami-Dade Republicans Friday night.

"He was awesome, just fabulous," said Vickie Gentry of Lutz, who knew little about Romney before the dinner. "He spoke from the heart, you could really feel his commitment. I had tears in my eyes."

In the wide-ranging TV interview beforehand, Romney addressed everything from how he changed to become a firm opponent of abortion to his support for sending more troops to Iraq to whether he would welcome an endorsement from controversial author Ann Coulter, who recently called Democrat John Edwards a vulgarity.

"I find her choice of words to be unfortunate and inappropriate. ... I can't imagine rejecting people, but I would certainly reject the comments that people make," Romney said of Coulter.

Addressing some key Florida issues, offshore drilling and a national catastrophic fund to help ease Florida's insurance crisis, Romney offered little specificity.

"More drilling? Absolutely," he said. "Where you drill, that is something that states and communities and the federal government will have to come to a meeting of the minds on."

On the national catastrophic fund, a top priority of Florida leaders, Romney said only that a shared insurance pool is something that should be looked at.

"If the insurance companies can't provide adequate and full insurance for homeowners across the country, we're going to have to come up with some way to provide for that safety," Romney said. "Exactly what it looks like, who participates? Time will tell."

In polls, Romney trails far behind former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain, but he is building a strong campaign in early primary states and is widely viewed as a leading contender for the nomination.

He faces questions about whether a Mormon can win the White House, but Romney said Americans don't care about "what brand" of faith someone has as much as whether they have strong faith and hold shared values.

"As people get the chance to look at my wife and me, look at our marriage, look at our five sons ... they'll recognize that the values I have are as American as you'll find anywhere else in this country."

A millionaire venture capitalist, Romney is credited with turning around the troubled Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. He served four years as Massachusetts governor until January, and said his limited government experience sets him apart.

"Americans have had way too much talk, too much partisan bickering, too much dithering in Washington," Romney said. "They're really ready for somebody who's not a lifelong politician, but somebody who has a demonstrated record of getting the job done."

Adam C. Smith can be reached at 727893-8241 or asmith@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 10, 2007, 21:45:46]


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