President Obama's re-election campaign is training some of its heaviest guns on a new target — the four years that GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney served as governor of Massachusetts.
In Boston Thursday, David Axelrod, a top Obama campaign adviser, joined Democratic state legislators and mayors on the steps of the State House to lampoon Romney's record there as governor between 2003 and 2007.
It's all part of a wider effort to shift the focus from Romney's work in the private sector, which has given some pro-business Democrats heartburn, to his one and only stint as an elected official.
The Obama campaign's pivot from Romney's years heading Bain Capital to his stint as governor of Massachusetts became clear in a web video released this week.
Debating Romney's Record
It features decade-old clips of Romney campaigning for that job, as well as been-there-and-done-that testimonials from Massachusetts Democrats, including North Adams Mayor John Barrett, saying "Romney economics doesn't work. It didn't work in Massachusetts and it's not gonna work in Washington."
Democrats called the Thursday morning news conference in Boston to amplify their attacks on Romney's record as governor.
But a crowd of the former governor's supporters got there first.
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams was also on hand to defend the former governor's record in office.
"Gov. Romney is proud of both his public and private sector experience," Williams said. "In the public sector, Gov. Romney served as a fiscally responsible governor who balanced the budget every year he was in office, who lowered the state unemployment rate from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent, and helped to create an environment where tens of thousands of jobs were created in Massachusetts."
Later, when Pat Haddad, the Democratic speaker pro tempore of the House, got up to speak, Romney supporters were still there, heckling the Obama supporters and blowing soap bubbles.
"It's so interesting to see people here who don't agree with us and to see the props that they're using. Bubbles, bubbles that were just like the promises that Mitt Romney made to us, filled with nothing and immediately broken," Haddad said.
But the greatest scorn from camp Romney was heaped on Axelrod, the top Obama adviser who had just met with local Democrats behind closed doors. As he tried to communicate with the phalanx of reporters arrayed in front of him, Romney supporters kept trying to drown him out.
Axelrod responded to the hecklers, saying, "You can shout down speakers, my friends, but it's hard to Etch A Sketch the truth away."
As the sidewalk circus continued, Axelrod assailed Romney's record in the State House.
Moderate Or Extreme?
Later, in an interview with NPR, Axelrod responded to whether the Obama campaign might also be reminding people that Romney was elected as a moderate.
"I take Gov. Romney at his word. He's not a moderate; he's a severe conservative. Isn't that what he said?" he responded.
When again asked whether spotlighting Romney's record as governor was a way to underscore that, Axelrod replied, "I just simply want to underscore ... what his record of economic performance was. He is presenting himself as a job creator. He is presenting himself as someone who can revitalize the economy. You have in this state a laboratory for his ideas in leadership and we know how it turned out, it was a dismal failure ... and that's a story that needs to be told."
Campaigning in California Thursday, Romney had another story to tell. He stood outside the building that once housed Solyndra, the failed solar panel maker that had $500 million in federal loan guarantees.
"This building, this half-a-billion-dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team," Romney said. "It's also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise. Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends."
For this week, at least, on the campaign trail, it's all about how each man has governed.