ADEL, Iowa — Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Friday that the country is angry over the lack of progress in the Iraq war, a stinging assessment of the Bush administration's handling of the conflict from a Republican candidate.
Campaigning in Iowa, the former Massachusetts governor also argued that despite the nation's frustration over the war, voters aren't ready to replace President Bush with a Democrat.
"I know the Democrats are getting all ready, they are measuring the drapes and getting the carpet all ready for how they are going to take over the White House, and I think they are going to get a big surprise," Romney told a crowd gathered at a golf course. "America is not happy with how the war in Iraq is going, and is angry. But America is not about to take a sharp left turn and put somebody in the White House who would turn America into a European-type state."
While Romney supported the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and backs Bush's current troop increase, he has repeatedly said the post-invasion period was "mismanaged" with a lack of preparation for the insurgency and adequate planning for a government handover.
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Before various New Hampshire audiences on Wednesday, Romney said he would wait until a mid-September report from U.S. generals in Iraq before deciding the next course of action that he would support. He said if the surge succeeds, he believes it will allow U.S. troop withdrawals. He had refused to detail alternate scenarios should insurgent violence continue unabated.
On immigration, Romney adopted a hard-line stance.
"I ... don't think it makes sense to have an immigration policy that says that if an illegal couple — a couple that comes across the border illegally — has a child here, that child becomes a U.S. citizen, that then the whole family gets to come in, if you will, through 'chain migration,'" he said.
Romney also criticized Democratic rival John Edwards' tax plan, which would increase taxes on the wealthy while offering tax breaks and credits for low- and middle-income Americans. Edwards unveiled the plan on Thursday.
"Whoop-dee-do. That's not a new house, that's not retirement, that not a new car — that's a new bike," Romney said of Edwards' proposal. "That is not the answer."
Instead, middle-income Americans ought to have a zero tax rate on all their savings, including bank interest, dividends and capital gains, Romney said.
Edwards said Romney "should be ashamed for attacking my economic plan."
"I want to rewrite our tax code to make it fair and help hard working Americans save some money to give them a better shot at the American dream," Edwards said in a statement. "Mitt wants to make sure that the wealthiest Americans just keep getting wealthier and let everyone else pick up the scraps."
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