Mitt Romney has finally forced President Obama on the defensive in the presidential campaign.
It may not last long, because the Obama re-election team has been masterful at keeping Team Romney off stride, but this week it is Romney who has thrown Obama off balance. The Republican barrage continued Thursday with a new web video from the Romney campaign and a fresh round of accusations linking Obama's recent comments about the importance of government to a wider critique of his lackluster record in improving the economy.
Specifically, Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has seized on Obama's remark from earlier this month that businesses need government to help them succeed.
"If you've got a business, you didn't build that," Obama said. "Somebody else made that happen." Obama went on to talk about how government facilitates business in many ways and improves society in general through such activities as building roads and conducting research that has led to breakthroughs such as the Internet. But Romney and his campaign leaders have used those comments to argue that Obama is obsessed with government intervention and doesn't recognize the importance of entrepreneurs and small business owners in the private sector.
On Thursday morning, Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg added fuel to the fire when she told reporters in an email, "Throughout his time in office, President Obama has consistently sided with government, not business owners, when it comes to the economy. But the disappointing results speak for themselves--middle-class Americans are stil struggling and job creators still aren't hiring. It's clear President Obama just wasn't up to the task of fixing our economy.''
In addition to the Romney attacks in ads, statements, and news conferences, American Crossroads, an influential conservative political action committee, has begun running a video arguing that Obama's comments were a "fumble" and showed that he disdains small businesses and entrepreneurs.
In response, Obama aides and surrogates have pushed back ferociously, arguing that Romney and the Republicans are distorting what he said. Obama unveiled a new TV commercial in which he talks directly into the camera and says, "Those ads taking my words about small business out of context--they're flat-out wrong."
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.