- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Obama campaign marched into Mitt Romney’s old political backyard of Massachusetts on Thursday to make the case that the GOP nominee’s economic approach didn’t work during his one-term as governor and won’t work as president.

The Romney camp, meanwhile, countered that Team Obama is simply trying to change the subject away from the rocky start to his re-election campaign and the lackluster economic record the president has compiled during his first term.

Speaking from the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse and overcoming the chants from a rowdy bunch of nearby Romney supporters, David M. Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, painted Mr. Romney as a political huckster, arguing that that the truth of his gubernatorial record clashes against his claim that his private-sector experience provides him with the skills needed to jump-start the economy.

“You can shout down speakers my friends, but it is hard to Etch-a-Sketch the truth away,” Mr. Axelrod told the boisterous crowd, before laying out his argument. “After selling himself to Massachusetts as an economic savior, the Massachusetts record was alarmingly weak.”

He pointed out that on Mr. Romney’s watch, the state ranked 47th in job creation, manufacturing jobs vanished at twice the rate as the national average, and household incomes dipped in the Bay State, but climbed nationally. To top it off, Mr. Axelrod said the state budget grew 6.5 percent annually and Mr. Romney approved higher fees on everything from marriage licenses to home purchases.  

“He raised fees more than any other governor in the nation — this ‘No tax’ governor,” he said.

Before the press conference, the Romney campaign blasted out an email highlighting how during Mr. Romney’s time in office the unemployment rate fell from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent and state added tens of thousands of jobs.

“We’re happy to compare the 4.7 percent unemployment rate Mitt Romney achieved in Massachusetts to President Obama’s weak record any day,” said Curtis Cashour, a Romney spokesperson.

Mr. Axelrod, though, had a much different take, holding up a 2007 study from Northeastern University that he said showed that on key labor market measures, the state often ranked near or at the bottom when compared to other states.

“It wasn’t happenstance that Massachusetts stumbled under Gov. Romney,” Mr. Axelrod said. “He brought the orientation of a financial engineer, whose career has not been about generating jobs, it has been about generating short-term profit. Not about generating long-term growth, or building for the future, but about taking what he can when he can.”

He also pointed to recent polls that show Mr. Romney is an unpopular figure among Bay Staters. Mr. Obama is widely expected to carry the state in November.

“It is a harsh judgement from the people who have come to know him best,” he said. “The message Massachusetts seems to be sending as they listen to Romney reprise his familiar pitch is, ‘Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on you.’ “