Gay Marriage, European Elections, and Foreign Taxes Interrupt Romney Economic Message

EUCLID, Ohio--Mitt Romney sought to stick on Monday to his central theme that the U.S. economy's pace remains sluggish, even as he juggled questions about same-sex marriage, the recent elections in Europe, and the foreign taxes he has paid.

Speaking at a plant that stamps parts for truck manufacturers, Romney continued his attack on President Obama 's economic stewardship, including the April unemployment rate of 8.1 percent--a figure the presumptive GOP nominee has said is double what it should be. He dismissed the drop from March as misleading.

When Romney opened the floor for questions, one man asked why Romney had paid more than $1.5 million in foreign taxes. Such taxes are paid by those who hold income-generating investments in other countries; Obama also has paid the taxes for the past several years. A foreign tax credit is provided so that a single investment isn't taxed twice, and all income is fully reported and taxed in the United States at prevailing rates.

"I'd appreciate your comments on an investing strategy that seems to have resulted in several million dollars of your personal income taxes being paid to foreign countries instead of ours," the man asked while some members of the audience began to boo his question.

Romney responded by saying he did not believe he had paid any foreign taxes but said he would look into it. Romney's assets are in a blind trust and managed by a trustee.

Romney passed up a chance to attack Vice President Joe Biden on the subject of gay marriage, which has reemerged as a hot topic after Biden's comments on Sunday that he is "absolutely comfortable" with such marriages. Avoiding the question appears to reflect Romney's desire to keep the campaign focused on Obama's handling of the economy.

In a subsequent interview with Ohio's WJW-TV, a reporter did ask Romney about Biden's statement. "My view is that marriage is between a man and a woman. That's a position I've had for some time, and I don't intend to make any adjustments at this point," Romney replied. When the reporter began to ask another question, he added, "Or ever, by the way."

The former Massachusetts governor also did not directly address another dominant topic in the news--the weekend's elections in Greece and France, in which voters sent a message of disdain for tough austerity measures imposed on both countries to rescue their faltering economies.

"We're going to take America in a very different place," Romney said, repeating a theme that he has raised before. Obama is "taking America on a path towards Europe. Europe's not working there. It's not going to work here. Europe is in real trouble. As their debts mount, as people demand more and more from government, government has to borrow more and more to satisfy their demands."

In an interview with Cleveland TV station WOIO taped before Monday's rally, Romney used a question about the French elections as an opportunity to bring up Vladimir Putin's reassuming his role as Russia's president for the third time.

"I think the president of our country has to be able to work with people of other nations even when we respectfully disagree with nations, such as Russia," he said. "We certainly have disagreements with Mr. Putin. We will have disagreements with the Chinese from time to time, with others around the world. But our differences in political philosophy should not prevent us from being able to have a dialogue, except of course in the most extreme cases such as Kim Jong Un, Fidel Castro, and people of that ilk, who have taken postures so extreme that a dialogue has not been especially fruitful at this stage."