BELLEVUE, Wash. - Trying to improve his standing with blue-collar Republicans, presidential candidate Mitt Romney has polished his stump speech with references to American success stories and people who succeed in life without going to college.
At a campaign stop here Friday, Romney said that as he travels the country talking to people, he's "come away more enthusiastic, more optimistic about America, not more skeptical and cynical." He detailed a story of a man he met named Norm Byrne, the owner of Byrne Electrical Specialists in Rockford, Michigan.
"This guy didn't get to go to college, he has no degree in engineering," the former Massachusetts governor said. "The reason I know that is, I asked him, 'Where did you get your engineering degree?' He said, 'I don't have one.' I said, 'Where did you go to college? He said, 'I didn't go to college.'"
"The reason I was asking him those things is that, I was in his factory," continued Romney. "And he had over 100 patents on the wall. He makes all sorts of systems, electrical systems, for under floors and so forth. This guy's brilliant, and has many, many people, dozens, scores of people, who work for him, because of his innovativeness and creativeness. It's just an American phenomenon."
Romney's new pitch to people without college degrees, an increasing share of the Republican vote, was less strident than rival Rick Santorum's. The former senator from Pennsylvania prompted a backlash this week after calling President Obama a "snob" for supporting policies that make it easier to get a college degree. In his election night speech after losing the Michigan primary on Tuesday, Santorum went out of his way to embrace white-collar professionals, stressing that his mother was a nurse and his wife a nurse and a lawyer.
In other remarks, Romney appealed to the local crowd with criticism of China and its threat to Boeing, which has major operations in Washington state.
"By the way, Boeing, get ready," he said. "China wants to start making big aircrafts, commercial aircrafts. Guess who's designs and technology they're going to try and steal? They hacked into the computers in corporate America and computers in our governmental sites. Two years ago, they were looking at the plans for the F-35. This is what they'll do."Full CBS News coverage: Mitt Romney