Romney takes aim at Hillary Clinton in new speech

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gestures as he speaks at the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in San Diego, California January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Mitt Romney criticized Democrat Hillary Clinton over foreign policy and the economy on Wednesday in what could be a prelude to the line of attack he takes if he decides to run for president a third time. Romney seemed to be in campaign mode in a closely watched appearance in Starkville, Mississippi, delivering a speech at Mississippi State University and stopping at a local barbecue restaurant, where he ate a pulled-pork sandwich. In his speech, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee looked past potential Republican rivals for 2016 and raised questions about President Barack Obama's struggle to contain Islamic militants in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. He criticized Obama over his refusal to refer to the militancy movement as "radical Islam." "I don't know how the president expects to defeat the jihadists if he won't even call them what they are," Romney said. Romney targeted Clinton in his remarks, accusing her of making mistakes as Obama's first-term secretary of state and of being out of touch with how jobs are created. The wife of former President Bill Clinton and former senator from New York is the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 should she decide to run. She "cluelessly pressed a reset button" in U.S. relations with Russia, which did not work, Romney said, because Moscow proceeded to invade Ukraine. And he assailed her declaration to an audience last October not to let anyone tell them that "it's corporations and businesses that create jobs." Clinton disavowed the remark soon after. "How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place?" Romney said. Applause erupted in the speaking hall when Romney said he was considering another presidential run. Having endured relentless Democratic attacks over his wealth in 2012, he made a joke about it in his speech, saying he did not need to make paid speeches because "as you've no doubt heard, I'm already rich." Romney is to decide in a matter of weeks whether to seek the presidency again. If he does, advisers say, he will run a different kind of campaign than last time, including more of a focus on the plight of people living in poverty. Romney would face a formidable contender in former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is also exploring whether to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. (Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Christian Plumb and Andrew Hay)