Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, exalting the power of the individual, accused President Barack Obama of substituting government for freedom in a speech Wednesday at Bettendorf’s LeClaire Manufacturing.

Romney was making his fifth trip to the state this year, a week to the day after the president traveled to Davenport to cap a three-day bus trip across Iowa.

Romney, who will accept his party’s presidential nomination at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., next week, cited individuals such as Lech Walesa and Rosa Parks — as well as American businesspeople and workers who he says built the country’s economy — in praising the power of the person.

He said the president has lost sight of that.

“It is free men and women who drive our economy,” Romney said. “President Obama, bless his heart, has tried to substitute government for free people, and it has not worked, and it will never work.”

“We will return freedom and get America growing again,” he added.

The Romney campaign estimated the crowd at about 1,600 people, and they were enthusiastic as Romney pledged to expand home-grown energy, reform education, boost trade, cut the debt and champion small business by keeping their taxes low and getting regulators to encourage them.

The Republican’s campaign also continued to seize on the president’s “you didn’t build that” remark made during a stop in Virginia last month.

Rob Zimmerman, co-president with his brother of LeClaire Manufacturing and who introduced Romney, called the statement “insulting.”

The stage where Romney appeared also had a background with the words “We Did Build It,” written in large letters.

The president’s campaign has said he was referring to the country’s system of roads and bridges when he said businesses “didn’t build that,” and it has pointed to independent fact checkers who say Romney has distorted the remark.

Romney’s speech was briefly interrupted when a person in the audience apparently tried to ask a question. He and two others with a banner were led out to chants of “USA, USA” by the rest of the crowd. The man is employed by Sensata Technologies of Freeport, Ill., a company Bain Capital bought about a year ago that it is closing. Workers there have tried to get Romney, who left Bain before it acquired Sensata, to intervene.

The Romney visit to the Quad-Cities is just the latest in a fierce contest between the Republican and the president’s camp for Iowa’s six electoral votes.

Romney urged people in the crowd Wednesday to reach out to people who backed Obama in 2008 and get them to vote for him November.

“Remind them how disappointing it’s been over these past 3 1/2-4 years,” he said.

He also appeared to reach out to young people, arguing the best way to help them is to help the economy and cut the debt.

“It is not investing in people to max out their credit card for them,” he said.

Obama won Iowa four years ago by nearly 10 percentage points, drawing Republicans and independents to his column, as well winning Democrats. He even won the traditionally conservative city of Bettendorf. However, Republicans have more recently gained a registration edge statewide, erasing a Democratic lead. And polls have said the two candidates are running fairly evenly in the state.

Romney’s camp is hoping to cut into Obama’s support in eastern Iowa, which traditionally has leaned Democratic.

The president’s campaign didn’t sit idly by watching Wednesday’s event. The campaign sought to upstage the Romney appearance by announcing just before it began that Obama would make two campaign stops in Iowa next week. One will be in Ames. The other will be in Des Moines.

Lis Smith, an Obama spokeswoman, said a Romney-Ryan White House would mean higher taxes on middle-income families, turning Medicare into a voucher program, increasing health-care costs and an economic policy that could push the country back into recession.

“This isn’t a recipe for strength; it’s the same failed formula that crashed the economy and devastated the middle class in the first place,” she said.

The campaigns also continued their on-air sparring Wednesday.

The Obama campaign put up a new television ad that hit Romney for cuts in the House budget drafted by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. The ad suggests that the cuts would make school class sizes bigger and that Romney supports that.

The Romney team, meanwhile, was pressing its criticism of the president on the health-care law, putting up a new spot saying the law includes taxes on medical devices such as wheelchairs and pacemakers.


UPDATED: Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, exalting the power of the individual, accused President Barack Obama of substituting government for freedom and warned the country is on a spiral to becoming Greece in a 20-minute speech Wednesday in front of 1,000 people at Bettendorf’s LeClaire Manufacturing.

Romney was making his fifth trip to the state this year, a week to the day after the president traveled to Davenport to cap a three-day bus trip across Iowa.

Romney, who will accept his party’s presidential nomination at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., next week, cited individuals such as Lech Walesa and Rosa Parks — as well as American businesspeople and workers who he says built the country’s economy — in praising the power of the person.

He said the president has lost sight of that.

“It is free men and women who drive our economy,” Romney said. “President Obama, bless his heart, has tried to substitute government for free people, and it has not worked, and it will never work.”

“We will return freedom and get America growing again,” he added.

Romney pledged to expand home-grown energy, reform education, boost trade, cut the debt and champion small business by keeping their taxes low and getting regulators to “encourage them.”

The Republican’s campaign also continued to seize on the president’s “you didn’t build that” remark made during a stop in Virginia last month.

Rob Zimmerman of LeClaire Manufacturing, who introduced Romney, called the statement “insulting.”

The stage where Romney appeared also had a background with the words “We Did Build It,” written in large letters.

The president’s campaign has said he was referring to the country’s system of roads and bridges when he said businesses “didn’t build that.” They also pointed to independent fact checkers who say Romney has distorted the remark.

Romney’s remarks were briefly interrupted when someone in the audience apparently tried to ask a question. He was led out by security to chants of “USA, USA” by more friendly members of the crowd.

The Romney and Obama campaigns are fighting hard for Iowa’s six electoral votes.

Romney urged people at the event to reach out to people who backed Obama last time and get them to vote for him November.

The president’s campaign, meanwhile, sought to upstage the Romney event by announcing just before it began that Obama would make two campaign stops in Iowa next week. One will be in Ames. The other will be in Des Moines.

The campaigns also continued their on-air sparring Wednesday.

The Obama campaign put up a new television ad that hit Romney for cuts in the House budget drafted by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. The ad suggests the cuts would make school class sizes bigger, and that Romney supports that.

The Romney team, meanwhile, was pressing its criticism of the president on the health-care law, putting up a new spot saying the law includes taxes on medical devices such as wheelchairs and pacemakers.

 


 

 

UPDATED: Highlights from Mitt Romney’s speech at LeClaire Manufacturing in Bettendorf.

Romney calls it “immoral” to pass on debt burdens onto the next generation.

A man interrupts Romney and is led out. Crowd chants “USA, USA.”  Romney says if man wants to wait outside he'll answer his question.

Romney says President Obama, “bless his heart,” has tried to substitute government for free people but it won't work.

Romney challenges supporters to find one person who voted for Obama and convince them to vote otherwise this time.

The speech is over.


Earlier notes from LeClaire Manufacturing in Bettendorf where the Mitt Romney rally is under way.

From Ed Tibbetts: “I know they may be painful,” but federal spending cuts need to be made, Iowa Rep. Steve Olson told the crow at LeClaire Manufacturing in Bettendorf.

Iowa Romney chair Brian Kennedy says the 2012 election will be “settled in Iowa,” and in eastern Iowa.

From Kurt Allemeier: Iowa Congressional candidate  John Archer's call to repeal Obamacare gets a big reaction.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds tell crowd that Obama's policies have failed women.

Members of the Bettendorf, Davenport and Iowa state law enforcement community line State Street in Bettendorf.

Girl Scouts, ages 7-13, from Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

LeClaire Manufacturing shop is filling behind the media riser.

From Steven Martens: Several people are wearing ‘Government didn’t build my business’ T-shirts made famous by a Davenport deli owner.

Rob Zimmerman of LeClaire Manufacturing says they set up 350 seats that already are full. He has been told there could be 1,000 or more in attendance.

Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Congressional candidate John Archer and Zimmerman are expected to speak at the event. Others in attendance include Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher, Maggie Tinsman and Iowa Rep. Steve Olson.

From Deirdre Baker: About 25 people representing various unions and the Democrat Party are at the union hall in Bettendorf near where  Romney is scheduled to speak.

According to Charlie Wishman of the AFL-CIO Romney was not good for Massachusetts and is not good for United States.


EARLIER STORY: The invitation to host a presidential rally came as a big surprise for Ralph and Rob Zimmerman, owners and co-presidents of LeClaire Manufacturing in Bettendorf.

But here they are a few days later, hosting a Mitt Romney rally at one of their two plants.

“I got a phone call on Saturday, asking if we had interest in holding a Romney rally,” Rob Zimmerman said. “They were looking for a family business, and they found us.

“We are not heavily involved in politics. We have never been real active in politics ourselves. But when we were asked, we discussed this and figured it is important, and we were honored to have them ask, so we said yes.”

Since then, it has been a whirlwind.

“It is being very fluid,” he said. “We have had people in all day, setting up in our other facility. We were told to expect from 300 to 2,000 and have no idea what to expect, and I don’t think they know, either.”

“We do not know who is coming,” Ralph Zimmerman said of those attending to hear Romney. “We are learning as we go along here.”

The rally will be at noon today at LeClaire Manufacturing, 2727 62nd St. Court, Bettendorf. Doors will open at 10 a.m. for the event. Rob Zimmerman said he has been asked to introduce Romney during the rally.

Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, last visited the Quad-Cities on June 18, when he spoke at LeClaire Park in Davenport.

His visit in Bettendorf comes a week after President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama visited the Village of East Davenport on the last stop of a three-day bus tour through Iowa.

Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher Jr. said he is happy for the Romney visit and for the Zimmermans.

“The Zimmermans are great people, great contributors to our community,” Gallagher said. “They are productive members of the community. We are very pleased to have their business in Bettendorf. The city put up an industrial park, and they have been an excellent tenant. We are glad they are there.

“And I am excited any time you get publicity on jobs. It is a good example of a small business that employs a significant number of Bettendorf people. It was nice to have President Obama in Davenport last week; now it is our turn to have a presidential hopeful.”

The first LeClaire Manufacturing building is located across State Street from the Riverside Development Park. The building purchased last year is in the park. The park is about 15 years old, said Steve Van Dyke, the city’s economic development director.

About the company

According to its website, LeClaire Manufacturing provides aluminum casting needs, from pattern and die engineering and building, to aluminum sand casting, to aluminum permanent mold casting, to machining.

The family started off with the Zimmerman Steel Casting Co., which became a major defense contractor during World War II. Although the family sold the Bettendorf foundry after the war, Robert Zimmerman, just out of engineering school at Iowa State University, continued the metals business tradition by introducing aluminum to the family history.

He purchased LeClaire Manufacturing in 1966. It was located in LeClaire. The company moved to Bettendorf in 1976, Rob said. Today, the company supplies aluminum castings to customers worldwide.

Rob and Ralph are Robert Zimmerman’s sons, who have carried on the business since his death.

“We are a fifth-generation in the foundry business,” Rob said. “It has survived the ups and downs of the economy. We are proud of this little bean business.”

In March 2011, Rob said they purchased the former Arch Aluminum & Glass Co. building at 2727 62nd St. Court, which had shut down.

“We were just becoming cramped with our space,” he said.

Meanwhile, since Sunday when the brothers gave the OK to host the rally, things have been hectic.

“The Secret Service has been designing all the seating and how they will be putting people in,” Rob said. “It is quite a process and fascinating what they have to go through. They try to work around us as best as they can.”

Although they have tried to keep the company low-key, both admit the exposure from the visit is good.

“It is kind of like a marketing campaign,” Ralph said.

By Tuesday, Ralph and Rob were just trying to do their jobs.

“I am trying to stay out of it. I am trying to actually get something done,” Ralph said. “The Secret Service is getting ready for (today). People are setting up the program. We basically are trying to stay out of their way.”

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