Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts has been something of a taboo topic on the campaign trail, with the Republican candidate rarely discussing his years in public office, preferring to trumpet his private sector experience instead.
President Obama's re-election team now wants to change that dynamic, turning taboo into talking points, highlighting Romney's 2002 gubernatorial campaign promises on jobs, taxes, and state debt that they say were left unfulfilled.
"Romney campaigned for governor on the promises of more jobs, decreased debt and smaller government," senior Obama strategist David Axelrod writes in a research memo to "interested parties." "When he left office, however, state debt had increased, the size of government had grown and over his four years, Massachusetts' record of job creation was among the worst in the nation."
Axelrod will host a rare press conference later today in Boston to drive the case home with officials who served in Massachusetts state government during Romney's tenure. Testimonials on Romney's record from several state officials are also featured in a new campaign web video.
"There are times when I watch Mitt Romney saying the exact same things now as he said here in Massachusetts in 2002 in a robotic way that is completely hollow," says state Rep. Carl Sciortino of the 34th Middlesex District. "It didn't work here, so I'm not quite sure why he thinks it might work nationally."
The video notes that, despite his much touted business experience, Romney presided over a lackluster state economy. Between 2003 and 2007, Massachusetts slid to 47th out of 50 states in job creation, the manufacturing sector saw a net job loss and workers' wages fell. Taxes and fees on state services climbed, while state debt grew by $2.6 billion.
"He raised our taxes by raising our fees," says state Rep. Jay Kaufman of the 15th Middlesex District. "But a rose by any other name is still a rose. That's a tax. Let's call it what it is," added Rob Dolan, mayor of Melrose, Mass.
Other local figures appearing in the four-minute video include John Barrett, former mayor of North Adams, Ma.; state Sen. Karen Spilka of the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk District; Jack Yunits, former mayor of Brockton, Mass.; and, state Rep. Jeffrey Sachez of the 15th Suffolk/Norfolk District. All are Democrats.
"Romney's back, making the same pitch to America that he did to the people of Massachusetts," writes Axelrod. "But when it comes to Mitt Romney and his economic philosophy the facts are clear - it didn't work then, and it won't work now."
The Romney campaign says the attacks on the former governor's record are meant to distract voters from Obama's unmet promises from 2008 and the sluggish state of the U.S. economy.
"Mitt Romney created more jobs in the state of Massachusetts than President Obama has for the entire nation," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "We're happy to compare the 4.7 percent unemployment rate Mitt Romney was able to accomplish any day against President Obama's failure to meet his own goal of 6 percent right now."