United Auto Workers union members and supporters gather Friday morning outside of Ford Field to protest ahead of Mitt Romney's speech to the Detroit Economic Club.
DETROIT — While union auto workers staged a large rally outside Ford Field, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talked conservative economics inside the football stadium on Friday.
Mr. Romney, locked in a close contest for the state’s Republican delegates in Tuesday’s election with Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, emphasized plans to reduce the size of government and encourage growth in the private sector. He spoke to the Detroit Economic Club.
He attacked the administration of President Barack Obama as ineffective, not only on the economy but in foreign affairs, where he said Mr. Obama has waited too long to try to impose “crippling sanctions” on Iran for its nuclear weapons development.
Calling himself a car guy, he only indirectly mentioned the Obama administration’s 2009 bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, which Mr. Romney opposed.
“Get the government out of General Motors so the future of that company is determined by the demands of the marketplace and not by the preferences of bureaucrats in Washington,” Mr. Romney said. “Detroit shouldn’t just be the Motor City of America. It should be the Motor City of the entire world.”
He said, if elected, he would ask for sacrifices, alluding to cuts to benefits for Social Security and Medicare that he said will be necessary parts of his plan to rein in the growth of government.
“I want to create more jobs and less debt and shrink government,” Mr. Romney said.
“It doesn’t require a leader to promise bigger and bigger benefits and free stuff. It requires a leader if you need to call for sacrifice,” Mr. Romney said. He balanced the talk about sacrifice with promises of a future with prosperity.
About 1,200 people bought tickets for the event held on the artificial turf of Ford Field because it was the only space big enough on the short notice given.
The union protest, organized by Progress Michigan and joined by throngs of United Auto Workers members and supporters, was staged to coincide with Mr. Romney’s address to the Detroit Economic Club.
A mobile billboard circled the stadium announcing: “Let Detroit [strike-through] Romney go bankrupt,” a reference to his 2008 New York Times editorial.