Idaho Gov. Butch Otter introduced GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney at Romney's Boise campaign rally this afternoon. "Folks, this election is about your and my liberty," Otter said. "We will turn out for that Idaho caucus. ... We will turn out for the man that has the executive experience, understands that we are a free market, not a socialist country, that has been there and done that."
Romney, who's come to Idaho to campaign for Otter in the past, told the crowd, "What a great state this is - you're lucky to live here." He recalled a summer he spent working on an Idaho ranch near King Hill when he was 15. "I learned so much about cultivating corn and spring corn and irrigating corn," he said. "I thought I'd never see the end of corn."
Romney said, "I've got a note here in my pocket that says remind the people there's a caucus on March 6th. I think you know that." To cheers, he said, "I need your vote, because I want to be president!" The crowd chanted, "Mitt, Mitt, Mitt."
"It's a remarkable country that we live in, and what breaks your heart is to see how many people (are) having tough times right now," said Romney, who criticized both President Obama and GOP rival Rick Santorum, who held a Boise campaign rally on Tuesday.
Among Romney's applause lines: "I think to create jobs it helps to have had a job" and "I am the fiscal conservative, I'll balance the budget, I'll get America back on track economically." Click below for a full report from AP reporter Kasie Hunt.
Romney says Santorum isn't a fiscal conservative
By KASIE HUNT, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday said Rick Santorum isn't a fiscal conservative, directly attacking his rival for the first time in more than a week.
"If you want a fiscal conservative, you can't vote for Rick Santorum, because he's not," Romney said at a campaign rally before a fundraiser. "I'm a fiscal conservative."
Romney has avoided criticizing the former Pennsylvania senator without prompting since Santorum won contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on Feb. 8, though he did attack Santorum by name during a rally in Atlanta. His campaign and their super PAC allies are attacking Santorum in TV ads in Michigan.
Romney on Friday accused Santorum of expanding government during his two terms as a congressman and two terms as a senator.
"I hope that people take a very close look at his record because he was in Congress for about 20 years and during that time the size of the federal government doubled," Romney said.
"And, by the way, he voted to raise the debt ceiling five different times without compensating cuts," Romney added. He said Santorum voted for "billions of dollars in earmarks."
Romney and his backers are vastly outspending Santorum in next-up Michigan, Romney's home state. A loss there would be a major blow for Romney. He was born in Michigan and his father, George, served as governor there.
Romney planned fundraisers in Idaho before a trip to Salt Lake City, where he will speak at a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. He ran the Salt Lake Olympic Committee that put on the games.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.