In visit here, Mitt Romney hails defeat of immigration bill

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney praised the U.S. Senate's defeat of immigration legislation yesterday, saying that the abortive deliberations over the measure supported by President Bush and Mr. Romney's rival, U.S. Sen. John McCain, demonstrated that Washington was out of touch with the American people.

  
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faces reporters in a hangar at Pittsburgh International Airport yesterday.

The Republican presidential candidate offered his anti-Washington message as he headed to a fund-raising reception at the Duquesne Club.

"The failure of this bill is related to the failure of Washington politicians to connect with the American people,'' he said in a brief airport news conference. "And finally the people's voice was loud enough and clear enough that the politicians had to retreat.''

In response to a question, Mr. Romney declined to directly criticize Mr. Bush, but his sharp attack on the legislation was a clear repudiation of the priorities of a president of his own party. Mr. Romney was more supportive of Mr. Bush when asked about recent statements from Republican senators critical of the administration's policy in Iraq.

In a Senate speech this week, Sen. Richard Lugar, senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, voiced doubt about the administration's "surge'' strategy, contending that it was time to fundamentally change the nation's plan for the future of Iraq.

"I think it's a little early to make that call,'' Mr. Romney said. "The Congress and the president have expressed support for Gen. [David] Petraeus to use the troop surge to provide security in Baghdad and Anbar province ... Gen. Petraeus is going to be back reporting in September. I'd like to hear what he has to say, unless there is some surprise in the interim.''

Mr. Romney's Pittsburgh visit was his second as a presidential candidate. It came days before the end of the second-quarter fund-raising period, the totals for which will be watched as a measure of the early momentum of the candidates.

Mr. Romney was the leader among GOP candidates in the first quarter with an impressive $23.4 million total, far outdistancing his closest financial rivals, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had $16.6 million, and Mr. McCain's $13 million.

An aide said yesterday that the campaign did not expect to match its first-quarter total this time, although Mr. Romney has acknowledged that he planned to contribute an unspecified sum of his own money to the campaign.

The campaign didn't have a firm estimate on the yield from its fund-raiser at the Duquesne Club, but an aide said they expected the event to attract approximately 100 people with a two-tiered ticket price -- $2,300 for a VIP photo reception and $1,000 for the general reception.

The previous evening, the Duquesne Club was the site of a similar fund-raising event for Mr. Giuliani. Mr. McCain had also been scheduled to appear in Pittsburgh yesterday, but the Senate debate on the immigration measure forced the Arizona lawmaker to cancel......

Mr. Romney has trailed far back in the pack in national polls on the GOP contenders. But he has been at the front of polls in the gatekeeper states of Iowa and New Hampshire, on the strength of a heavy campaign schedule and the most extensive early advertising of any of the Republican candidates.


Politics Editor James O'Toole can be reached at jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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