Romney continues to sell business experience as qualification for White House

Last week’s Republican National Convention zeroed in on a familiar message Mitt Romney has maintained throughout his campaign: President Obama has failed to turn the economy around because he lacks experience in the private sector, and a Romney/Ryan administration would better serve business owners.

In his speech accepting his party’s nomination, Romney played up his business experience co-founding Bain Capital, the private equity firm he described as “a company that was in the business of helping other businesses.”

Romney argued that Obama has struggled to right the economy because he doesn’t have the same background in private enterprise.

“He took office without the most basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task,” Romney said. “He had almost no experience working in business. Jobs to him are about government.”

Two out of the five steps Romney outlined in his plan to create 12 million new jobs — which Moody’s Analytics predicted would happen by 2016, regardless of who’s in the White House — were direct appeals to business owners. He vowed to “assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish as have those in Greece.” And he promised to lower taxes and simplify regulations that hurt small businesses, including repealing and replacing the federal health care reform law.

“The centerpiece of the president’s campaign is attacking success,” Romney said. “No wonder someone who attacks success has led the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression … Business and growing jobs is about taking risk, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving.”

Romney’s speech echoed themes in vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech a day earlier, during which Ryan alluded to Obama’s now-infamous “you didn’t build that” line. Obama made the remark during a July appearance in Roanoke, and it referred to the fact that everyone, including businesses, benefit from government help in some fashion, whether it is infrastructure or public education.

“If small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place,” Ryan said in his speech. “After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit. What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.”

Catherine Ho covers lobbying at The Washington Post. She previously worked at the LA Daily Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Wichita Eagle and the San Mateo County Times.

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