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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Romney campaign holds Tampa event in nationwide push to portray Obama as hostile to small business



TAMPA -- A July 13 speech by President Barack Obama has triggered a media blitz by the Mitt Romney campaign that comes to Tampa today.

Its message, that Obama has an irrational antipathy toward small business, will be echoed by two local business owners: Rebecca Smith, owner of A.D. Morgan, a construction company, and Lou Ramos, owner of Value Enterprise Solutions, an information technology company. They will speak to reporters at A.D. Morgan's headquarters today at 11 a.m. It'll be one of 24 events the Romney campaign will hold across the country, where small business owners will speak to reporters. According to the Romney campaign, Smith and Ramos will stress "the importance of policies that get government out of the way so the private sector can flourish."

Most of all, they'll denounce Obama for comments he made in a 40-minute speech nearly two weeks ago during a campaign rally in Roanoke, Va.

The Romney campaign has zeroed in on a section of the speech where Obama makes the point that even the most successful people should understand that others, including those in government, have played a role in their good fortune. Here's a long excerpt of those comments:

I'm not going to see us gut the investments that grow our economy to give tax breaks to me or Mr. Romney or folks who don't need them. So I'm going to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. We've already made a trillion dollars' worth of cuts. We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more. (Applause.) And, by the way, we've tried that before -- a guy named Bill Clinton did it. We created 23 million new jobs, turned a deficit into a surplus, and rich people did just fine. We created a lot of millionaires.

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn't -- look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That's how we funded the GI Bill. That's how we created the middle class. That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That's how we invented the Internet. That's how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.

Taken in that wider context, it's hard to detect an anti-business bias here. But the Romney campaign has run a series of ads highlighting the words in bold. Taken alone, that part of the speech still pretty much states the obvious: everyone needs help in this life. But Romney has used that part of the speech to imply that Obama is anti-business, for some unexplained reason.

In this spot, titled "These aren't Gaffes", the Republican National Committee plays Obama's July 13 comments as classic "gotcha!" politics. As Obama says "If you've got a business, you didn't build that, somebody else made that happen", large white letters appear on onscreen: "THIS IS WHAT OBAMA BELIEVES".

A longer spot shows the Republicans doubling down on attacking Obama's comments. This one, called "These Hands", is artfully done. It follows the owner of a Hudson, N.H. metal fabricating company, Jack Gilchrist, going about his day. He drives along a gloomy interstate. He hugs a woman who appears to be his wife. Indie film guitar music is strummed in the background. As Gilchrist pours himself a cup of coffee, Obama's voice can be heard, as if speaking from a radio: 

"If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there."

This appears to hurt Gilchrist personally. A close-up of his middle-aged face follows. He's not smiling, folks.

Then he explains why.

"My father's hands didn't build this company. My hands didn't build this company. My son's hands aren't building this company. Did somebody else take out the loan on my father's house to finance the equipment? Did somebody else make payroll everyweek to figure out where it's coming from. President Obama, you're killing us out here. With hard work and a little bit of luck we built this business. Why are you demonizing us for it. We are the solution, not the problem. It's time we had somebody to believe in us, somebody who believes achievement should be rewarded, not punished. We need somebody who believes in American."

So, from Gilchrist's perspective, the only people responsible for the success of his metal fabricating company are his father, himself, and his son. Must be fun to work at that family-owned business.

The ad continues with a snippet from Romney. He picks up from where Obama left off.

"The idea that Steve Jobs didn't build Apple, that Henry Ford didn't build Ford Motor, to say something like that isn't just foolishness, it's insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America. And it's wrong. President Obama attacks success and therefore under President Obama we have less success."

Wow. Where and when did Obama say Jobs didn't build Apple and Ford not Ford? The ad doesn't say. But conservatives love it. Rush Limbaugh called the "pretty effective." Meanwhile, Limbaugh said the Obama campaign must answer for the president's July 13 comments. 

"If he didn’t mean this, this is a major gaffe. This has been allowed to fester and settle in for five days. If you didn’t mean this, you go out there and you take this back. You try to make people understand that you didn’t really mean it."

But again, taken in the wider context, this can't possibly be seen as anything to "take back."

Obama's campaign won't let this pass without some rebuttal. So they've offered up this reply.  It's a three-minute spot meant to be e-mailed to friends to refute Romney's latest push, says Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama.

Cutter says the Gilchrist spot and others "blatantly twist" Obama's words.

"Romney's not telling the truth about what the president said and is taking the president's words out of context," Cutter said. "The president said that, together,  Ameica built the free enteprise system that we all benefit from."

Whether what the president says matters in this age of instant communication is still to be determined. It'll be interesting to see what Smith and Ramos have to say about all this.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 10:31am]


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