The Washington Post

Obama campaign attacks Romney’s record as Mass. governor

President Obama’s reelection campaign launched Part 2 of its strategy to discredit Republican challenger Mitt Romney this week, pouncing on his record as Massachusetts governor after more than two weeks of attacks on his years working in private equity.

The campaign released a five-page memo and a four-minute Web video Wednesday characterizing Romney’s leadership of Massachusetts as a failure. The Web video uses dire music and a series of interviews with local elected leaders to describe fees Romney raised, the increase in state debt during his tenure and the state’s ranking in job creation during his term (47th).

On Thursday, senior adviser David Axelrod will host a news conference in Boston in front of the statehouse at 11:30 a.m. to drive home his criticism of Romney’s record. State Republican leaders will try to preempt that appearance with their own news conference at the same location 90 minutes earlier, to “discuss Mitt Romney’s record of job creation.”

“When it comes to Mitt Romney and his economic philosophy, the facts are clear,” Axelrod wrote in the memo. “It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.”

The Romney campaign issued a statement criticizing Obama’s attacks and denying some of the details.

“Mitt Romney created more jobs in the state of Massachusetts than President Obama has for the entire nation,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “President Obama has failed to meet his own goal of 6 percent unemployment and has a net negative record on job creation. We’re happy to compare the 4.7 percent unemployment rate Mitt Romney was able to accomplish. If President Obama had even half the job creation record of Mitt Romney, then he would be running on it.”

Obama’s pivot from a direct assault on Romney’s years with Bain Capital could alleviate some of the heartache from Democrats — and powerful counterattacks by Republicans — who see the anti-Bain approach as anti-capitalist.

But Democratic campaign advisers said criticizing Romney’s gubernatorial record adds heft to Obama’s claim that the Republican’s Bain years don’t qualify him to lead in the public sector.

Although it won’t be official until the party’s convention in August, Romney clinched the Republican nomination by winning the Texas primary on Tuesday. And Obama’s Chicago-based reelection team is wasting no time trying to shape voters’ views of him, as more and more of them begin to tune in.

Axelrod’s memo details how Romney made much the same pitch when he ran for governor in 2002 as he is making today in his presidential bid: that his experience in the private sector makes him uniquely qualified to lead government and create jobs.

“I’m the only candidate in this race who has a lifetime of experience in the private economy,” Romney says in a 2002 video to which the memo links. “I speak the language of business. I know how jobs are created.”

Axelrod then goes on to outline the ways in which Romney didn’t make good on his promise over four years as governor. Under Romney, the state’s job-creation ranking fell from 36th to 47th, and unemployment rose above the national average for the first time in a decade, according to the memo. (The Romney campaign countered that the Republican inherited a state that was losing jobs each month but left office at a time when the state was gaining jobs each month, and with unemployment lower than when he began).

The Obama memo also outlines (as does the video, with dramatic graphics) how the state’s “long-term” debt grew 16 percent. And it accuses Romney of raising fees on “middle-class families” while granting a tax break on the wealthiest — much like what the Republican has proposed to do as president, Obama officials said.

“We’ve seen this all before,” Axelrod wrote. “It’s the same formula that benefited a few but crashed our economy in the first place and undermined security for the middle class. Massachusetts couldn’t afford Romney Economics, and neither can the American economy.”

An Obama campaign spokesman wouldn’t say whether any advertising will accompany the new attack on Romney’s Massachusetts years. But the campaign made clear that there will be no letting up on Bain Capital, the private-equity firm that Romney co-founded, which Obama has sought to characterize as a corporate menace that placed profit ahead of all else when it took over companies and, in some cases, shut them down.

The attacks have alarmed some Democrats, particularly in battleground states such as Virginia, where large swaths of independent, business-minded voters could be turned off by what appears to some as an assault on private enterprise.

Obama has tried to make clear that he is not attacking private equity but rather questioning what Romney claims as his central qualification to be president. Focusing on profits rather than job creation is fine in the private sector, the Obama campaign has said — but it doesn’t qualify Romney to be president.

Obama will roll out more examples of companies that Bain took over and shuttered, notably in battleground states, campaign advisers said.

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