Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is campaigning in Florida today, which prompted President Obama’s campaign organization in the state to issue a statement calling on Romney to take a position on space policy. “Today, Floridians deserve to know if Mitt Romney agrees with his Republican allies in Congress or if he stands with President Obama in supporting the next era of space exploration,” said Eric Jotkoff, press secretary for Obama for America Florida, in a statement emailed earlier today.
Romney, Jotkoff said in the statement, “has provided unwavering support for the Republican budget plans that would undermine America’s space program and our country’s future as the leader in a new industry. He is seeking advice on space policy from the strongest advocates of a Bush Administration plan that tried to recreate the glories of the past with the technology of the past.” That’s a reference to a January open letter issued by the Romney campaign on space policy, whose signatories include former NASA administrator Mike Griffin.
The Obama campaign statement sought in particular to link Romney to the CJS appropriations bill passed by the House last week that, among other measures, includes report language calling for an immediate downselect to one or two companies for NASA’s commercial crew development program. “Now his allies in Congress are trying to eliminate competition in a nascent private space industry which is driving innovation, moving space exploration forward and creating hundreds of jobs on Florida’s Space Coast. Mitt Romney has said he supports the House Budget,” Jotkoff stated.
The Romney campaign has largely been quiet on space since the candidate’s January 27 speech on Florida’s Space Coast, where Romney declined to take a particular stand on space policy (in marked contrast to Newt Gingrich’s call for a lunar base by 2020, made just two days earlier). Instead, he talked about how he would bring in experts from throughout the space community to develop a mission for NASA. In that speech he was critical of President Obama’s approach to space, calling out “his failure to define a mission for the space program for this nation.” One month later Romney said he was in no hurry to go back to the Moon, which actually would put him more in line with the current administration, which abandoned plans by the Bush Administration for a human return to the Moon by 2020, than fellow Republican Gingrich.