BOSTON — The Massachusetts Statehouse became a highly charged backdrop for the White House campaign on Thursday as President Barack Obama’s top political strategist assailed Mitt Romney’s record as governor while competing against a steady stream of chants and catcalls from a group of Romney backers.
Standing with a group of state Democrats in front of the historic building, where the presumptive presidential nominee served one term as governor from January 2003 to January 2007, David Axelrod cited federal statistics showing that Massachusetts had a poor record for job creation during Romney’s tenure.
“After selling himself to Massachusetts as an economic savior, his Massachusetts record was alarmingly weak,” said Axelrod. “Under Gov. Romney, the state was 47th in job creation, manufacturing jobs vanished at twice the national rate and household incomes fell even when they were rising nationally.”
Several dozen Romney supporters, many with signs reading “Obama isn’t working,” stood behind metal barricades on the sidewalk and kept up a noisy protest while Axelrod and other Democrats spoke. Curious tourists and children on school field trips stopped to watch the political spectacle unfold.
“Solyndra, Solyndra,” they shouted at Axelrod, a reference to the California green energy firm that received $535 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Energy Department in 2009, but later went bankrupt and laid off 1,100 workers.
“You can shout down speakers my friends, but it’s hard to Etch-a-Sketch the truth away,” retorted Axelrod, referring to a comment a top Romney aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, once made about Romney shifting gears for the general election campaign.
Axelrod’s appearance in Boston and the release of a new web video by the Obama campaign signaled a renewed emphasis by the Democrats on Romney’s record as governor.
Axelrod also said Romney raised fees more than any other governor in the nation during his term, added $2.6 billion to the state’s debt and belied his own conservative credentials by growing state government at an annual rate of 6.5 percent.
Earlier Thursday, Republican legislators staged a pre-emptive event in which they strongly defended Romney’s record as governor and suggested that Obama was merely trying to shift the focus away from his own economic record.
“The reason that Axelrod is here, the reason they are attacking Gov. Romney’s record ... is that they have nothing positive to say about the last four years,” said state Rep. Daniel Winslow, who served as Romney’s chief legal counsel for two years.
Republicans said the state’s unemployment rate dipped from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent when Romney’s term ended, that he erased a multi-billion state budget deficit, helped lower the state’s bond rating and left the state with more than $2 billion in its reserve fund.
Republicans said the lower job creation figures compared to other states resulted from a sharp downturn in the state’s technology sector as he was taking office, but that Romney helped lead a recovery.
Rep. Bradley Jones, the state House minority leader, said: “Gov. Romney grew jobs while he was here in the Commonwealth. President Obama lost jobs while he was president of the United States.”
Romney on Thursday made an appearance at the shuttered Solyndra plant in Fremont, Calif., to criticize Obama’s green energy record. He said the government loan was a conflict of interest because it benefited some of the president’s campaign contributors.
In Boston, Axelrod pointed to polls that have shown Romney trailing Obama by a wide margin in Massachusetts.
“It’s a harsh judgment from the people who have come to know him best,” said Axelrod.MORE IN Wire NewsSEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired three short-range guided missiles into its eastern waters ... Full Story
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