Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told an eager crowd in southwest Miami-Dade Monday that he will get the country the jobs it needs and bring "fiscal sanity" to the White House.
Romney contrasted himself with President Barack Obama, saying that far too many Americans are out of work, have stopped looking for work, or are underemployed.
“I will get the jobs America needs. I know how to do it," Romney told people gathered in sweltering heat at El Palacio de los Jugos.
The juice shop is owned by a convicted cocaine trafficker, Reinaldo Bermudez. Court records show that Bermudez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in 1999 and served three years in federal prison.
In media reports in November 1997, Bermudez was identified as one of 12 people accused in a Colombian drug smuggling operation. The arrests followed a seven-month investigation led by the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The Romney campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Phone calls placed by The Associated Press to the juice shop weren't answered.
In his speech, Romney said that his Democratic opponent said he would help people hang on to their homes, but there have been a record number of foreclosures, Romney said.
“I will get this economy going so people will see home values going up again," he said.
In his 11-minute speech, the former Massachusetts governor also said he would help small businesses and reduce government spending.
“The president said he would cut the deficit in half. I think it’s immoral for us to keep spending our kids’ future. If I’m president, I will actually cut spending and get America on track to a balanced budget," Romney promised.
A few Obama supporters were escorted out of the rally. Medics treated some people in the heat.
“All he keeps saying is he wants to try a mango here, so get him a mango,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said before Romney took the stage at the juice palace.
As a result of Romney's visit to El Palacio de los Jugos, Coral Way was expected to be closed from Southwest 69th Avenue to Southwest 72nd Avenue between about 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., Miami-Dade Police said.
Meantime, led by Obama, Democrats claimed on Monday that Romney privately backs controversial plans to overhaul Medicare and cut trillions from social programs that his new vice presidential running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, has publicly proposed.
Ryan "has given definition to the vague commitments that Romney has been making," Vice President Joe Biden said as the Democrats welcomed the Wisconsin lawmaker to the race with a barrage of criticism. "There is no distinction" between the two, he said.
Romney lauded his running mate's work as he resumed his own four-day bus trip through campaign battleground states.
Ryan has "come up with ideas that are very different than the president's," Romney said in Florida, the state with the highest percentage of residents age 65 and over. "The president's idea for Medicare was to cut it by $700 billion. That's not the right answer. We want to make sure that we preserve and protect Medicare."
Romney did not say so, but the tax-and-spending plans Ryan produced in the past two years as chairman of the House Budget Committee call for the repeal of Obama's health care plan but also would retain the $700 billion in Medicare cuts that were part of it.
Democrats staged their own rally in Miami Gardens, billed as the “Throw the Middle Class Under the Bus” tour, highlighting what they call lousy Republican economic policies.
"His record in Massachusetts only causes me more concern about the future of my business if he's elected. President Obama has had my back as a small business owner," said Annette Tadddeo of Miami.
Senator Marco Rubio and other local politicians spoke before Romney in southwest Miami-Dade.
Both Rubio and Romney handed out juices to an excited crowd after their remarks. Romney was filming a campaign ad at the juice shop, aides said.
The presidential candidate sought to rebut the idea that America's best days are behind it – pointing out that the U.S. just won the most medals at the 2012 London Olympic Games, and that the nation just sent a vehicle to Mars.
Long before dawn, workers at the eatery set up tables and decorations for the presidential hopeful's visit.
"Everybody's excited," said Nery Fernandez, a customer for 10 years who planned to attend the afternoon rally at the Coral Way restaurant.
Fernandez voted for President Barack Obama four years ago, but said she thinks the former Massachusetts governor has the better plan to jump-start the economy.
"It's an honor that he's visiting our area," she said.
Monica Mantilla, who normally works customer service, was doing whatever it takes to make a good impression, and admitted she was a little nervous.
"We got here really early, everyone is really excited," Mantilla said. "It's a great opportunity for the Latin people."
The eatery stocked up on fresh flowers and 40 loaves of French bread.
"He's down to earth," Fernandez said of Romney. As far as his vice presidential pick, she'd been hoping for Senator Marco Rubio, but said she'll settle for Ryan, who was announced as Romney's running mate on Saturday.
Romney's remarks later in the day hardly touched on Florida-centric topics, like Medicare and Cuba. But that doesn't matter, Romney supporter Jennifer La Rocca said.
She said that what she likes most about the Romney-Ryan ticket – beyond the fact that it’s not Obama – is that “he stands for what the true American values (are), and we need that.”