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Mitt Romney in Chicago: Inside the Maggiano's fund-raiser

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Chicago Sun-Times reporter Dan Mihalopoulos
handled pool duty for Mitt Romney's Tuesday swing through the Chicago area. Below, the
report from a fund-raiser at Maggiano's on Grand, 516 N. Clark St.....


Romney spoke for about 14 minutes Tuesday afternoon to about 60
supporters from the hospitality industry who attended his fundraiser
at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant in downtown Chicago. Tickets to
the event were $5,000, $25,000 and $50,000, aides to the candidate
said.


He was introduced by Toni Brinker, the widow of Norman Brinker -
founder of the Dallas-based company that owns the Maggiano's and
Chili's Grill & Bar restaurant chains.

Toni Brinker, who was Norman Brinker's fourth wife, lauded Romney as a
"great governor" with excellent leadership skills and "strong family
values."

Romney said that "hundreds of thousands of people" in the hospitality
industry owe their jobs to the "individual industry, risk taking,
entrepreneurship" of the supporters in the room.


Romney said he was "increasingly impressed by the impact of one
person." He cited Lech Walesa, whom he met recently in Poland, as well
as Rosa Parks and "the fellow from Tunisia" who lit himself on fire in
protest and inspired the Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East.

He also described how Condoleeza Rice told him about a woman who began the overthrow of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu by calling him a liar, prompting others to begin chanting "liar."

"Ultimately he is executed," Romney said. "The power of one person."

Romney said Walesa told him, "Mitt, the world needs America's leadership. America needs to lead. He was concerned that America was not leading. He laid out for me things we need to do as Americans to help lead the world in a time of tumult like the one we're in today."

The impact of one or two people can be extraordinary, he said, adding, "That's also true in the sector that creates jobs, the private sector."

He pointed to a man in the audience who had been with McDonald's for 27 years and worked with Ray Kroc. He said at a time when he was in his "late teens, maybe 20," he found a voucher in his dad's dresser drawer that entitled him to a lifetime of free burgers, fries and shakes. "It was signed by the hand of Ray Kroc," perhaps when his father did a training seminar in the early years of the McDonald's chain. Romney said he told his father, "This is a goldmine, dad. What are you you - what are you doing?" Romney laminated it. He said his father went every day for a hamburger or fish fillet sandwich. "They'd never seen something like that. But he said was never turned down."

He said many who started with McDonald's went on to run other
restaurants. "It's individuals and their entrepreneurship which have
driven America. What America is not a collective, where we all work in
a kibbutz or we all work in some little entity. Instead, it's
individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises
which employ others, and they become inspired as they see what has
happened and go off and start their own enterprises."

He told the story of Jimmy John Liautaud, founder of the
Champaign-based Jimmy John's fast-food chain, who was a poor student
but borrowed money from his father to start the chain. Equipment to
make hamburgers or hot dogs was more expensive than he though. "The
only thing he could afford with the money he had borrowed was a few
tables to make sandwiches with. He made sandwiches in a garage." Now
he has 1,500 restaurants that employ 60,000 people. "This is the way
America works."

"What we've seen over the last three and half years is a president who
may be well intentioned but whose policies have failed the American
people." He said there were 23 million Americans out of work, no
longer looking or underemployed. "It's not just a failure of policy,
it's a moral failure--in the nation that is the most wealthy in the
world, for us not to be able to provide work for people who want to
work. The policies that president put in place, rather than actually
encouraging the economy to grow and thrive, have made it more
difficult for the economy to recover. This has been the longest, most
painful recovery from a recession in American history. That's not just
a matter of chance. That flows from policies that didn't work. What
the president has done is make it harder for entrepreneurs and
innovators to start businesses and to grow businesses. People have
pulled back from risk taking and starting enterprises at the very time
we needed them to step forward. And it happens across the board."

He said hiring has been discouraged by "decisions of the National
Labor Relations Board" and Obamacare.

"One after the other, his policies have made it harder for the economy
to recover," Romney said. "I'm trying to find a way to encourage
consumer choice and more freedom because our economy runs on freedom
and individuals pursuing their dreams. If people aren't putting their
dreams in action with their time and
the financial resources, then America is not going to generate the
jobs we need to create."

He then ticked through his five-point economic plan before closing
with an attack on Obama's recent statements on entrepreneurship. "I
didn't believe he actually said it. I was incredulous. I read that
what the president said was if you have a business, you didn't build
it, someone else did that. He didn't really say that, did he? Then I
went and read the text and found he had said that, and looked on
YouTube." He said Obama claimed it was taken out of context. "Look at
the context. It's worse than the quote." That comment elicited
laughter and clapping.

"He said these people think they're successful, these people think
they're smart ... Where is he going with this? Is there something that
is not good about being smart and working hard? ... It is a lack of
understanding about how America's economy works."

After the event, his Illinois campaign chairman, State Treasurer Dan
Rutherford, said Romney had raised more than $2 million Thursday in
Illinois. "He's going to be back again," Rutherford said, declining to
say exactly when Romney would return to Illinois. "We are doing
abundantly well raising money here in this state."


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