By Charles Babington/The Associated Press
MOBILE, Ala. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talked of eating catfish and hunting as he sought Alabamans’ votes Monday while campaigning with a comedian famous for “redneck” jokes.
The former Massachusetts governor told a rain-soaked crowd in Mobile that President Barack Obama wrongly thinks things are improving because of recent job increases.
“This is a president who thinks America is doing better,” Romney told more than 200 people who crammed into a restaurant porch trying to escape heavy rains and lightning. “He should go out and talk to the 24 million Americans who are out of work or stopped looking for work or are unemployed.”
February was the third consecutive month in which the government said more than 200,000 U.S. jobs were created. The unemployment rate is 8.3 percent.
Romney said the Obama administration had vowed to keep unemployment below 8 percent and is prematurely celebrating.
Obama said last Friday after the February job numbers were released that economy is getting stronger.
“When I come to places like this, and I see the work that’s being done, it gives me confidence there are better days ahead,” he said at a Rolls-Royce manufacturing plant in Virginia. “Our job now is to keep this economic engine churning.”
Romney, a Mormon who has lived mostly in Michigan and Massachusetts, has tried to connect with Southern voters, sometimes poking fun at himself and sometimes not. He has talked of liking “cheesy grits” and sprinkled a few “y’alls” while campaigning in Alabama and Mississippi, which hold primaries Tuesday.
He campaigned Monday with comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who gained fame with jokes beginning, “You might be a redneck if …”
Foxworthy told the crowd he has never bothered with politics until now, and said Romney’s leadership is needed to safeguard his children’s future.
Romney referenced Foxworthy’s TV show, “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” Obama is clearly smarter than an elementary school pupil, Romney said, but he has pushed unwise policies on health care, energy development, spending and taxes.
“This president has done almost everything wrong,” Romney said.
Romney did not name his GOP rivals, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul but said there are “a couple of other guys running for president along with me who spent their lives in Washington.” All have been or are members of Congress.
Romney said the White House needs an outsider with experience running a business, a state or an Olympic games, all of which he has done.
The former Massachusetts governor boasted of eating catfish “for the second time” during a weekend stop in Mississippi. He poked fun at himself when he promised to go hunting with an Alabama friend who “can actually show me which end of the rifle to point.”
Romney, a multimillionaire, was mocked during his 2008 presidential bid for claiming he sometimes hunts “small varmints.”
The rain-soaked crowd in Mobile gamely sang “Happy Birthday” to Romney, who turned 65 on Monday.