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GOP Leaders Kick Off Town Hall Series in Arlington

Republican leaders kicked off their listening tour Saturday morning by speaking about the economy and GOP principles, and taking a half-dozen questions from a crowd of 80 people gathered at a pizzeria in Arlington, Va.Perched on stools inside Pie-tanza pizzeria, former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Jeb Bush of Florida joined House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) in telling people that instead of relying on politics, they and their fellow members of the National Council for a New America were going to engage the American people in a discussion about the issues important to them.“Ideas have consequences,— Bush said. “I hope those across the country will be excited to share their ideas to bring about a better America.—And they weren’t above cracking some jokes.“Free pizza for everyone here today,— Romney joked. “No? No, this is not a Democrat establishment.—The Republicans’ National Council for a New America includes House and Senate leaders as well as several current and former state lawmakers. It will hold town hall meetings across the country in an effort to “engage people in a discussion to meet our common challenges and build a stronger country through common-sense ideas.—During the hourlong forum, the three Republican leaders did most of the talking, answering questions on the economy, the downturn’s effect on small businesses and affordable tuition. The crowd was largely local residents, most of whom found out about the gathering through an e-mail from Pie-tanza owner Ed McKee.“There is a divide about how you think about America. There are some folks who think that government clearly knows best and that people who are elected know now to run the country better than anybody else,— Romney said. “Then there are those that say, no, America is great because of the American people and skill and ingenuity and entrepreneurship of America. That’s what we happen to believe. “We are going to work very hard to listen to the American people and do our very best to strengthen the American people and thereby strengthen our nation.—The questions took the tone of a campaign stop.McKee asked what the leaders there would do to help small businesses succeed in the current economic environment and make health care affordable. “Right now it’s scary to see, once removed from all the political stuff … it’s disturbing how the Congress reacts with a problem to AIG, [Friday] the bankruptcy of Chrysler. Literally the government turned the whole system of credit … upside down to achieve a political objective,— Bush said in response.Stephan Isaac, a 21-year-old student from American University, asked how the Republicans are going to reach out to younger voters. Another questioner asked about the Employee Free Choice Act.The leaders did their best to downplay the appearance as an early 2012 kickoff. Asked whether the three men are the new face of the Republican Party, Romney pointed to himself and Bush and quipped, “There are two of us that are has-beens already.”“The face of the Republican Party is not the three people up here. The face of the Republican Party are the people around here,— he added.His remarks were met with a round of applause.

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