Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Mitt Romney will speak about poverty in a speech in the nation’s poorest state Wednesday evening — while directly taking aim at Hillary Clinton, saying she “cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia.”
Romney will address students at Mississippi State University, and in excerpts provided to ABC News by an aide, Romney outlines an early line of attack he may employ if he again runs for president.
“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation,” Romney will say. “The Middle East and much of North Africa is in chaos. China grows more assertive and builds a navy that will be larger than ours in five years. We shrink our nuclear capabilities as Russia upgrades theirs.”
Romney also described three issues the nation needs to improve — likely topics he would build his campaign on — including the “need to help make the world a safer place,” the “need to restore opportunity, particularly for the middle class,” and the “need to lift people out of poverty.”
In what looks like an early attack against Clinton, trying to align her with President Obama, Romney will say, “How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn’t know where jobs come from in the first place?”
Romney then goes after the president, asking how he expects to “make America the best place on earth for businesses, as he promised in his State of the Union address” if there are high business taxes, regulations that “favor the biggest banks and crush the small ones,” as well as a “complex and burdensome health care plan” — an attack he tried to employ in his last campaign unsuccessfully.
The president’s health care plan was repeatedly compared to Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts, something he denied, but an issue that will likely come up again by GOP opponents in a future campaign.
Romney will add that the country needs a president who will “do what it takes to bring more good paying jobs to the placement offices of our college campuses.”
He will also call the president’s foreign policy “timid” because he walked “away from his red line in Syria, of paring back our military budget, and of insulting friends like Israel and Poland? Strong American leadership is desperately needed for the world, and for America.”
If Romney does run again in 2016, he will of course have a competitive GOP primary first before being able to take on Clinton if she is the nominee, or any Democrat. In his first run for the White House in 2008, he also went after Clinton during the GOP primary. That year, he lost the primary to Sen. John McCain.
Romney’s 2012 campaign did not focus on poverty, although his running mate Paul Ryan did address the issue at times during his part of the campaign, but it’s clear this will be a central issue to Romney if he does move forward.
In the speech, he will say during that last campaign he “met folks…almost every week during my campaign” who had “fallen into poverty as result of an unfortunate event, like losing a job.”
“These folks were almost uniformly optimistic about finding their way back into the middle class,” the former Massachusetts governor will say. “But I also met folks who had been in poverty from generation to generation. These we have to help escape the tragedy and the trap of chronic generational poverty.”
Romney will say “for fifty years and with trillions of dollars,” Washington has tried to fight the “war on poverty with failed liberal policies,” but it hasn’t worked.
“It’s finally time to apply conservative policies that improve America’s education system, promote family formation and create good-paying jobs,” he will say.
In the 2012 campaign, Romney was ridiculed and called unrelatable for his “47 percent” comments or when he said following his win in the Florida primary that he is “not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”
In national exit polls after the 2012 loss, Obama won 81 percent to Romney’s 18 percent of voters who said the candidate quality that was most important to them was he “cares about people like me.”
With Romney’s early pivot to focus on poverty, he is likely trying to avoid those issues that derailed him last time.
On Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported extensively about Romney’s four luxurious homes including an 11,000 square foot one in La Jolla, California he may be trying to sell, possibly before another presidential bid. The home has a spa and a car elevator, a luxury that Democrats jumped on during the last campaign and will likely once again if he runs again.
Romney aides believe Clinton’s own wealth will make his no longer a political liability with an aide telling ABC News in the same statement given to the Globe: “It’s going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney’s wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous.”
A spokesman for Clinton did not immediately return a request for comment.
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