By Abdon M. Pallasch and Lynn Sweet
CHICAGO---GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney came to the University of Chicago -- the home of the late legendary conservative economist Milton Friedman -- to say that Friedman was right: the free market must not be chained.
"Milton Friedman knew what President Obama still has not learned, even after three years and hundreds of billions of dollars in spending: The government does not create prosperity; free markets and free people do," Romney told a room full of students and fans.
Exactly two months ago in this same room, President Obama's senior Advisor David Axelrod launched his Institute of Politics that he will chair "after he re-elects Obama," he has said. Obama taught law at the University of Chicago.
Romney's main pledges were the Republican staples of lower taxes and less regulation.
"Instead of expanding the government, I will shrink it," he said. "Instead of raising taxes, I'm going to cut them. Instead of adding more regulations, I will reduce them."
He will cut government spending on good and bad programs alike, including Planned Parenthood, he said.
"..Subsidies to Planned Parenthood: I an going to eliminate those subsidies and those programs are going to have to stand on their own," Romney said.
Romney is locked in a tight race with Rick Santorum in Tuesday's Republican presidential primary election.
A new poll shows Romney expanding his lead over Santorum. Because Santorum could not field delegates in four of Illinois' 18 congressional districts, Romney is expected to win more delegates Tuesday even if he loses the non-binding "beauty contest" vote. He is also expected to take just about all of Illinois' super-delegates.
Romney has been calling Santorum "an economic lightweight." He came to the University of Chicago Monday to burnish his business bona fides, talking about small business owners who say government regulation stands in their way.
"For every regulation, there are unintended consequences, underestimated costs and unwanted influence from special interests," Romney said. "And, of course, the bureaucratic impulse is to make more rules, never to reduce them. All those regulations erode our freedom and stifle prosperity. When the heavy hand of government replaces the invisible hand of the market, economic freedom is the inevitable victim. We once built the interstate highway system and the Hoover Dam. Today, we can't even build a pipeline."
He was referring to the Keystone Pipeline President Obama put the kibosh on until more environmental studies could be performed.
He said students should be advocating for less government spending because they will ultimately pay the bills.
"They ought to be frightening to death to people your age, who wonder what your tax rates are going to be," Romney said.
"I need you to vote tomorrow, by the way, if you like anything you heard."