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RNC slams Obama ‘You didn’t build that’ remark in conference call with business owners

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The short-lived pause in campaign politics following last week’s Aurora, Colo., mass shooting came to an end on Monday as the Obama campaign blasted Mitt Romney on foreign policy and Republicans renewed their criticism of the president for his “you didn’t build that” remark.

President Obama earlier this month at a campaign event in Roanoke. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)

In a Monday afternoon conference call organized by the Republican National Committee, two business owners argued that they were personally offended by the remark, which Obama made earlier this month at a campaign stop in Roanoke.

(As The Post’s Fact Checker and others have noted, the original Obama quote was a reference to infrastructure, not to business.)

“It was really a personal issue for me,” Melissa Ball, of Ball Office Products in Richmond, Va., said of Obama’s remarks when asked by a reporter whether Monday’s call meant that the post-Aurora detente was over.

“For me, the conversation is about my business, and hearing those comments, I was shocked,” she said. “So having an opportunity to comment on his words, I was pleased to do so. My jaw dropped. I thought surely I could not have heard what I heard. ... For me, it’s a big moment, and it was impactful for me and my employees to hear something like that.”

Ball has appeared on previous Romney campaign conference calls. Her company, Ball Office Products, has received several small federal contracts, according to the Web site USAspending.gov.

Also on the call was Larry Cerilli, co-owner of Snoopy’s Hot Dogs in Raleigh, N.C. The establishment was in the news this month after co-owner Steve Webb changed the sign outside to read, “Mr. Obama, I did create this business – Steve Webb.”

Asked whether he agreed with Obama’s broader point about individual success, Cerilli said that “obviously, toward the end, he says it takes more than one person; I’m the first to admit when I need help.”

He then likened the risks taken by a business owner to a scenario in which three kindergarteners are given construction paper and glitter and only one succeeds in making a beautiful art project out of the materials while the others make nothing.

Of Obama’s remark, he added: “You can’t take it away from the context of what I heard. It’s what I heard and what he meant ... And that’s the reason why I put the sign up.”

Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, shot back at the criticism from Republicans and the Romney campaign in a statement later Monday afternoon.

“Mitt Romney continues to criticize President Obama by taking his words completely out of context -- all while sitting with small business owners who built their enterprises through their own initiative but with some help along the way,” she said.

Meanwhile, as the Post’s David Nakamura reports, the Obama campaign is challenging Romney to provide specifics of his foreign policy platform in areas where he disagrees with President Obama, as the presumptive Republican nominee prepares to leaves later this week for visits to Britain, Israel and Poland.

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