TEGA CAY -- Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney painted himself as the candidate of change Thursday at a town hall-style "Ask Mitt Anything" event in Tega Cay.
The former Massachusetts governor promised to curb government spending, halt illegal immigration and increase funding for the military if elected.
Romney railed at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for her economic policies, saying, "It's out with Adam Smith, and in with Karl Marx."
"I think she would change things," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "Yeah, that's my reaction -- not the way we want to change things."
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Romney touted his successes as governor eliminating a deficit without raising taxes and implementing a health-care system that provides widespread insurance through the private sector.
He expressed a desire to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent, to eliminate the estate tax and to introduce a savings plan that would allow for tax-free interest, dividends and capital gains.
Although Romney repeatedly mentioned the need for strong family values, he shied away from bringing religion into the picture.
Critics have questioned whether being a Mormon would hinder Romney's ability to garner support from evangelical Christians in the South.
"If you want stronger families, you make sure and teach your kids that before they have babies they should get married," he said.
Romney spent considerable time laying out plans to stop illegal immigration, citing the need for an employment verification system that would penalize companies that hire illegal immigrants and pledging to cut support for so-called "sanctuary cities" that serve as havens for illegal workers.
Thursday was Romney's third visit to York County since his campaign began.
A recent USA Today/Gallup poll showed Romney trailing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson by 22 and 8 percentage points, respectively, in the Republican race. Arizona Sen. John McCain led Romney by 4 percentage points in the poll.
The outlook was brighter in Iowa and New Hampshire, however, where polls showed Romney as the Republican front-runner.
Regardless of what the polls said, the 200-plus supporters who showed up for the event Thursday in Tega Cay liked what they heard.
"I think we need a president that realizes that the top priority for this country is to stay strong," said Jim Covington, a self-proclaimed right-wing environmentalist who lives in Tega Cay.
"If he can do everything he says he wants to do, it'd be great," added his wife, Becky Covington.