Mitt Romney visits North Hollywood as Rick Perry hits Century City

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Republican 2012 presidential hopeful, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, poses with Stephen Winnick and his 7-month-old daughter Sarah before a news conference at a mostly-empty shopping center in the North Hollywood area of Los Angeles on July 20, 2011.

Boarded-up shops and a nearly empty parking lot provided the backdrop for former Masschusetts' Gov. Mitt Romney’s visit today to a struggling shopping center near the intersection of Victory and Laurel Canyon boulevards.

Romney, presumed to be among the leading Republican contenders for the presidency in 2012, said President Barack Obama’s economic policies have contributed to the decline of this and many other malls across America.

“Proposing raising taxes did not put people back to work. Obamacare made it less likely for employers to want to hire people. The talk about cap-and-trade and higher energy costs made it less likely for people to want to invest here," Romney said.

Dozens of reporters surrounded Romney, along with Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents the area.

"I’m disappointed he chose to use my neighborhood and one of my top economic priorities as essentially movie set for his production today," Krevkorian said in response to a reporter's question.

Krekorian, like just about everybody else on the L.A. City Council, is a Democrat. He said millions of federal stimulus dollars have helped his area maintain a medical clinic, law enforcement and other needs. He said it’s not fair of Romney to blame the president for a long-struggling mall.

“It’s in the state that it’s in today because of more than a decade of economic decline," Krekorian said.

Several dozen Romney supporters showed up, too. Irene DeBlasio of Studio City said she likes the former Massachusetts governor because he was a businessman who “knows about the bottom line.” She also noted another reason.

“He’s got five sons, a beautiful wife, lots of grandchildren. He’s a typical American." Unlike, DeBlasio said, Obama.

“Oh, I think he’s ghastly. I think he’s destroying the country. I think all his policies are anti-American, socialist, borderline communist manifesto," she said.

Many Republicans seem to agree that Obama’s got to go, but they’re far from consensus on who ought to replace him.

Mike Schroeder, an Orange County resident who is the former chair of the state GOP, was Romney's political director in California during the last election. He won't be supporting him this time around, citing Romney's "disorganized" 2008 campaign and the healthcare plan Romney enacted in Massachusetts, which had been cited frequently by the president during his bid for national healthcare reform.

Shawn Steele, a Republican National committeeman from L.A., noted that other prominent Orange County Republicans who once supported Romney last week hosted an event for Texas Gov. Rick Perry: “Now they’re co-hosting Rick Perry. That in itself is a story. When you have the Orange County machinery flipping from one candidate to another, that is something very significant," Steele said.

Perry was also in Los Angeles today at a hotel in the Century City neighborhood for an event coordinated by influential fundraiser Renee Croce, who helped raise millions of dollars for former California Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson. Perry has been traveling the nation to gauge his support among party loyalists, elected officials and donors, while fashioning the framework of what could become a national campaign.

Perry is attending more private meetings in California this week, and Steele thinks the Texan will announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president next month.

Among Republicans in the contest, Romney leads the money race and reported an $18.4 million haul in the second quarter.

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