In response to dismal job-growth numbers released Friday, the Romney campaign and the Democratic National Committee trotted out Virginia legislators and business owners Monday to offer their two cents on the economy.
In a pair of conference calls with reporters, the speakers alternately blamed the weak economy on President Obama and his lack of business experience, or on businessmen like GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, whom they portrayed as putting profits ahead of jobs when he was in the private sector.
First up was the Republican call, which state Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) kicked off. He spoke not as a politician, he said, but as a businessman. He founded Amerigroup, which manages Medicaid, Medicare and other government-funded health care programs in 12 states.
“I think the president fundamentally has it wrong,” McWaters said in an afternoon conference call with reporters. “He doesn’t understand how business works. ... Jobs are not going to be created from the government.”
McWaters was followed by Ken Sickmen, owner of Belmont TV, a family-owned firm in Northern Virginia that for the first time in its 75-year history, is not replacing employees as they leave. Sickmen recalled how in college, he’d submitted a business plan to a professor as part of a class assignment. After receiving a low grade, Sickmen invited the professor to swing by one of his TV stores to see the plan successfully in action.
“He was a good professor, but he was not a businessman,” Sickmen said. “President Obama’s a good man but he’s not a businessman.”
Last on that call came Melissa Ball of Richmond-based Ball Office Products, which sells office furniture and supplies. Ball said her 19-member firm remains profitable, but recent growth has come from the demise of competitors.
“I feel we need a president who supports a free-market system,” she said.
Their comments dovetailed with GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s claim that Obama’s lack of business experience has made him a poor steward of the economy.
Ninety minutes later, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Party of Virginia responded with a call of their own. It featured Delegate Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) and Sharon Dabney-Wooldridge, owner of Klean Kare, a home- and office-cleaning business based in Richmond.
McClellan described Romney as a “corporate buyout specialist” who she said “cared only about “maximizing profits,” not creating jobs.
In so doing, she chose a somewhat controversial line of attack. Democrats have been less than united on the wisdom of vilifying Romney’s work at the private equity firm Bain Capital, with former president Bill Clinton among those who has suggested the issue should be off the table.
Dabney-Wooldridge, whose 26-year-old firm has 101 employees, said Obama has helped her company thrive with policies to “steer government contracts to women-owned businesses.”
“President Obama freed up access to credit,” she said. “I was able to get a decent line of credit to hire more employees.”
Some technical glitches emerged toward the end of the Republicans’ call, which was interrupted a few times by clicking and screeching sounds. That allowed McWaters to inject a little levity into the otherwise dour proceedings, quipping, “Must be one of those Democratic hackers.”