Romney on minority outreach: 'Stop thinking so much about the primary'

Story highlights

  • Mitt Romney focused on how to address poverty, minority outreach as he considers another presidential bid
  • He stressed that the government should encourage people to get married as a way to combat poverty
  • As renewed attention surfaces on his wealth, Romney's team points to another wealthy potential candidate, Hillary Clinton

Starkville, Mississippi (CNN)Mitt Romney argued on Wednesday that Republicans need to spend more time targeting nontraditional GOP voters during presidential primaries, saying the party's messaging gap is greatest with minority voters.

"During our campaigns for the primary vote, we tend to go to the audiences that vote in a Republican primary and tend therefore not to be as involved in minority communities as we need to be to win the general election," the 2012 Republican presidential nominee told an audience at Mississippi State University.
"And so we got to stop thinking so much about the primary and start thinking more about making sure we have people that support us in the general election," he continued.
    He followed up saying he wasn't urging Republicans to spend less time thinking about the primary but to devote equal amount of attention to "all audiences."
    Romney, who's considering yet another presidential bid, made no mention of where he is in his thought process about a third campaign, but said he felt confident that "the great days of America have not ended; they're ahead with the right kind of leadership."
    Combating poverty
    In his speech, Romney hit on familiar refrains about nostalgia from his campaign as well as challenges facing the country. He also wove in swipes against Clinton, who's widely considered the Democratic frontrunner if she runs for president.
    If Romney runs again, he's likely to make anti-poverty policy a key part of his message.
    Romney said the war on poverty that started under President Lyndon B. Johnson "came from a good heart" but argued "the policies weren't as good as the heart."
    To address the problem, Romney argued that the government should not create incentives for people to avoid marriage, saying a single mother on Medicaid or other assistance may not want to get married because she could lose her benefits.
    "If marriage ... is essential to helping people to stay out of poverty, then we want to do the opposite," he said. "We want to create incentives for them to get married, not to not get married."
    He also said K-12 education needs to improve, and he encouraged creating incentives for people to hire workers who haven't worked before, but didn't outline specifics.
    Blasting Clinton
    Romney is also looking straight past his potential GOP rivals and sharpening his attacks against Hillary Clinton.
    He argued that the former secretary of state was "clueless" on relations with Russia and would prove inept on economic policy if elected president.
    "How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place?" Romney said.
    He also argued that Clinton helped contribute to Obama's "timid" approach to foreign policy.
    "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation," Romney said.
    As Romney was headed to Mississippi, the nation's poorest state, his political team fought back against perceptions that his wealth could be a political liability if he runs for president again, arguing that Clinton is no model for modest living, either.
    "It's going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney's wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous," a Romney aide said Wednesday.
    That comment was also included in a new report by the Boston Globe that details how Romney purchased or built two new homes after his 2012 election loss. The former private equity CEO, whose wealth became an overriding theme for Democratic attacks, has a total of four homes: a mansion in La Jolla, California; a ski chalet in Park City, Utah; a large home in Salt Lake City; and a house on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire.
    The home in La Jolla, complete with a car elevator, has been undergoing renovations to make it bigger since 2012, and according the Globe, is now being shown to potential buys by a broker.
    Correct the Record, the pro-Clinton communications and research PAC, pushed back against Romney's response Wednesday.
    "While Mitt Romney tries in vain to reinvent himself as a friend to those who are struggling, Hillary Clinton is continuing her life-long work to lift up the middle class and level the playing field for all Americans," said Adrienne Elrod, communications director for the group, said in an email to CNN.
    Romney was constantly playing defense against multi-million dollar Democratic campaigns that pilloried his corporate background and painted him as out of touch. He also sought to overcome a string of gaffes―i.e. "I like being able to fire people" and "I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners"―that Democrats quickly used as fuel for their fire against the then-GOP nominee.
    A spokesman for Clinton did not immediately return a request for comment.
    The former secretary of state, widely seen as the Democratic frontrunner if she runs for president, has fought her own battle against accusations of being out of touch, in part because of her six-figure speaking fees and because of comments she made last summer in which she argued that her family was "dead broke" after leaving the White House.
    Romney's $50,000 honorarium (minus travel costs) is being donated to Charity Vision, a restorative eyesight organization based in Provo, Utah.