This article has been updated to include new reporting.
WASHINGTON - Leading Republican presidential candidates responded to President Obama’s remarks on the national debt within minutes of the speech’s conclusion.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sent out a statement saying that the president’s proposals "are too little, too late.”
“Instead of supporting spending cuts that lead to real deficit reduction and true reform of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the President dug deep into his liberal playbook for ‘solutions’ highlighted by higher taxes,” Romney said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. “With over 20 million people who are unemployed or who have stopped looking for work, the last thing we should be doing is raising taxes on job-creators, entrepreneurs, and small business owners across America.”
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour wrote on Twitter: “President Obama doesn't get it: The fear of higher taxes tomorrow hurts job creation today.”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was slower to respond, but not only did he reject Obama's speech, he made news by rejecting the budget deal reached by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) with the White House last Friday.
"Today's speech was nothing more than window dressing. President Obama's lack of seriousness on deficit reduction is crystal clear when you look at the budget deal he insisted on to avoid a government shutdown," Pawlenty said.
He then segued to a statement that directed more of its fire at the budget deal than at the president's speech.
"The more we learn about the budget deal the worse it looks. When you consider that the federal deficit in February alone was over $222 billion, to have actual cuts less than the $38 billion originally advertised is just not serious," Pawlenty said. "The fact that billions of dollars advertised as cuts were not scheduled to be spent in any case makes this budget wholly unacceptable. It's no surprise that President Obama and Senator Reid forced this budget, but it should be rejected. America deserves better."
Obama's speech also received a harsh response from the chairman of the Republican Party in Iowa, the state that caucuses first in the presidential primary race.
“Iowans are looking for real leadership in addressing the looming fiscal crisis facing America. Instead of leadership from their President, Iowans received a self-indulgent lecture that was filled with rhetoric designed to scare senior citizens, promote class warfare and demagogue the debt elimination proposals of his political opponents," said Iowa GOP Chair Matt Strawn.
"Hope and change has given way to fear and partisanship," Strawn said in a statement.
UPDATE: 4:12 p.m. -- Two lesser known GOP presidential hopefuls also responded on Twitter to Obama's speech.
"President Obama's address proved yet again that he values ideology over basic economics and leadership," said former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain.
"His budget employs his typical class warfare tactics, insisting on taxing America's job creators into oblivion for what he deems "fairness." In doing so, he makes clear his willingness to further cripple our economy in exchange for pushing his wealth redistribution agenda and abandonment of the free enterprise system," Cain said in a statement posted on his website.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said on Twitter: "Obama speech in a nutshell: We'll cut deficit by raising taxes & cutting spending w/o rly cutting anything. Don't think that's going 2 work."
UPDATE: 9:52 p.m. -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich issued a statement responding to Obama's speech.
"President Obama's speech today shows he has learned nothing about how to win the future," said Gingrich, according to The Hill. "He continues to operate with a left wing worldview that will hurt seniors, kill jobs, raise gas prices, and increase our crushing debt."
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