AIKEN — “There’s nothing I like more than coming to Aiken,” said South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as she introduced GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to a standing-room-only crowd Friday afternoon.
Haley praised the former Massachusetts governor for his tough stance against unions, his belief in the core values America was founded upon and his experience balancing his state’s budget during his term as its chief executive.
“All eyes are on South Carolina and I couldn’t be more proud,” she said. “We want someone who can defeat this current president, and President Romney is the only one who can.”
As the crowd at the University of South Carolina Aiken intramural gymnasium chanted his name, Romney thanked the audience for its support and commitment to core conservative values. His administration, he said, would make difficult spending cuts and bring America back to the strong force for good it once was.
“I’m going to make cuts by asking is this program so critical that it’s worth borrowing from China to pay for,” he said. “We’re going to have to cut programs, and cut some we really like.”
Jack Devine hasn’t decided who will get his vote Jan. 21, but he said it’s between Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. He isn’t completely pleased with either, he said.
“Obviously, I’d like to find the perfect candidate but I don’t think he’s out there,” Devine said. “I’m getting closer to supporting Romney because I think it’s important to have a president who really understands business and the economy. That will be a big improvement.”
Romney touted his business experience and financial know-how, but he said his biggest priority is to encourage values such as innovation and creativity to not only boost the economy but also get back to why the country was originally founded.
“The success of innovators does not make the rest of us poorer, it makes us better off,” he said. “That’s what America is about, and we need to get back to that.”
USC Aiken sophomore Ashley Boyd said she hasn’t decided whom to support in the Jan. 21 primary but she’s concerned about the ideological direction of the country.
“I feel like the current administration is all just fighting against each other and that they don’t really care about us,” she said. “We need someone who will be a strong leader.”
Boyd said she wasn’t sure whether that leader will be Romney.
“I haven’t really heard much about what he stands for,” she said.
As a college student, Boyd said job creation and economic recovery are priorities for her. She wants to see the U.S. back as an economic leader, she said.
“I want someone who will create more jobs and make America great again,” she said.