July 24, 2012 -- Ten days after Mitt Romney turned President Obama's remarks about public investment in infrastructure into an attack on the president's support for American free enterprise system, Team Obama is finally pushing back.
Speaking in Roanoke, Va., earlier this month, Obama pushed the importance of continued government investments in public services and infrastructure that many U.S. businesses rely on to function. "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help … 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," Obama said.
Republicans have seized on the line "you didn't build that" to falsely claim that Obama was speaking directly to business owners about their businesses.
The RNC and the Romney campaign have been relentless in pushing the "you didn't build this" meme in ads, speeches and campaign videos. A Romney business roundtable meeting in California yesterday featured the slogan "We Did Build It."
The Obama campaign, it seems, is not going to take it anymore.
At a campaign fundraising event in Oakland, Calif., Obama hit back at Romney for "splicing and dicing" his words. "I believe with all my heart that it is the drive and the ingenuity of Americans who start businesses that lead to their success. I always have and I always will," he said.
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This morning, Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter "debunks distortions" and defends the Obama record on small business in a new video.
Is Obama's engagement a sign that they fear the attacks are working?
A USA/Today Gallup poll found that a "record number of Americans express skepticism about the activist role of government Obama espouses; 61% say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. That's the highest number since Gallup began asking the question in 1992."
Or are they simply operating under the rules learned in the 2004 "Swift Boat" attacks – don't let any attack, no matter how seemingly out of context, go unanswered? And, with the economy continuing to struggle, Obama can't afford to give Romney any opportunity to go on the offense on the issue of jobs.
Either way, it's interesting to note the difference between how the Obama and Romney campaigns have dealt with recent attacks. Romney, of course, has yet to put the issue of his tax records to bed, but seems content to ride out the storm. Obama, meanwhile, has decided to wade into the fight.