In a Labor Day warm-up for this week's presidential debate, a partial cast of Republican contenders argued Monday for turning back the clock on legislation passed at the federal level, starting with President Obama's health-care law and going back nearly a century.

Share story

COLUMBIA, S.C. — In a Labor Day warm-up for this week’s presidential debate, a partial cast of Republican contenders argued Monday for turning back the clock on legislation passed at the federal level, starting with President Obama’s health-care law and going back nearly a century.

Repeal of the federal income tax, stripping the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over abortion and sharply cutting the powers of the Federal Reserve Bank were among the positions that found favor at a “tea party”-themed forum in the first Southern primary state.

The candidates were questioned separately by a panel that included Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a tea-party leader who organized the Palmetto Freedom Forum as a showcase for the GOP contenders.

Mitt Romney accused the Obama administration of departing more radically from the principles of the Constitution than any other administration in history and singled out “Obamacare” — the law modeled in part on Romney’s state health-care plan — as an example of a “massive intrusion” into the lives of ordinary Americans.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

The nationally televised event was to have been Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s debut with his GOP rivals. Instead, he broke off campaigning in South Carolina and returned to Texas, where firefighters are battling wildfires.

Romney, who has been knocked from the lead in the polls by Perry, began reaching out recently to tea-party supporters in early-voting states. He changed his schedule last week to appear at the South Carolina event, which he had planned to skip.

In New Hampshire, a throng of nearly 1,000 came to hear Sarah Palin give a rousing pep talk to a boisterous Tea Party Express rally. “We’re seeing more and more folks realize the strength of this grass-roots movement,” the former Alaska governor said. “And they’re wanting to be involved. I say, right on! Better late than never — for some of these candidates, especially.”

Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman in a fight with Perry for backing from the party’s most conservative voters, accused Obama of “acting outside of the bounds of the Constitution,” and pointed to the individual insurance mandate in the health-care law. Ron Paul, whose libertarian views have strongly influenced the tea-party movement, drew cheers with his demand for bringing home all U.S. troops stationed abroad.

Georgia businessman Herman Cain seconded Paul’s call for a return to the gold standard and proposed rewriting a 1913 law to do away with the Federal Reserve Bank’s mission to maximize employment. Cain joined Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Paul in calling for a sharp reduction in the federal income tax on corporations.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania were not invited because of their low standing in polls.

Obama puts GOP

Congress on notice

DETROIT — President Obama used a boisterous Labor Day rally to put congressional Republicans on the spot, challenging them to place the country’s interests above all else and vote to create jobs and put the economy back on a path toward growth. “Show us what you’ve got,” he said.

In a partial preview of the jobs speech he’s delivering to Congress on Thursday night, Obama said roads and bridges nationwide need rebuilding and more than a million unemployed construction workers are itching to “get dirty” making the repairs. He portrayed Congress as an obstacle to getting that work done.

Congress returns from its summer recess this week, and the faltering economy and jobs shortage are expected to be a dominant theme.

“We’re not going to wait for them,” Obama said at an annual Labor Day rally sponsored by the Detroit-area AFL-CIO.

The assembly also cheered wildly when Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa Jr., during a pre-Obama warm-up act, urged activists to oppose Obama’s critics by taking “these sons of bitches out.” Besides spending on public works, Obama said he wants Republicans to prove they’ll fight as hard to cut taxes for the middle class as they do for profitable oil companies and the wealthiest Americans.

“You say you’re the party of tax cuts?” Obama said. “Show us what you got.”

He said organized labor is responsible for the rise of the middle class and the core of the nation’s economy and legislative battles to curb the rights of organized labor are a threat to the nation as a whole.

The crowd cheered Obama when he said, “As long as I’m in the White House, I’m going to stand up for collective bargaining.”

Rollins scales back

campaign role

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Ed Rollins, the veteran campaign operative who helped engineer an Iowa straw-poll victory for Rep. Michele Bachmann this summer, has stepped down from running the day-to-day operations of her presidential campaign, a spokeswoman for Bachmann said Monday night.

Bachmann’s campaign cited health reasons for the abrupt change in the role Rollins, 68, will play in the presidential campaign. Politico first reported the change for Rollins, who was an adviser to Ronald Reagan and helped Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, win the Iowa caucuses in 2007. After winning the straw poll in August, Bachmann, of Minnesota, struggled to maintain momentum, especially after Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the Republican contest.

Seattle Times news services

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.