THE STATE HOUSE — Now that Mitt Romney is assured the Republican nomination for president, the President Obama re-election campaign is focusing more attention on Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts.
State Democratic leaders joined with Obama campaign leaders at the State House Thursday, but they found plenty of Romney backers there, too. On the steps of the State House, supporters of Romney and supporters of Obama shouted over each other.
As Obama supporters yelled, “Fired up and ready to go!” Romney supporters a few feet away completed the thought by yelling “Home!” The intensity of the chanting made it feel as if the election were next week, not five months away.
Romney supporters did not stop yelling and booing to listen to what Democratic political leaders had to say about how Romney managed the state budget.
“Hey, the record shows people what we got in Mass. was a series of state budgets which pushed more and more costs on local budgets,” said Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone. “A tactic that ravaged cities and towns and forced them to raise property taxes.”
The big attraction was Obama’s senior strategist, David Axelrod, whose appearance at the event was supposed to be a surprise. Axelrod began his remarks by yelling back at the chanting Romney’s supporters.
“You can shout down speakers but it’s hard to Etch-a-Sketch the truth away,” Axelrod said.
That is a reference to a comment made by a Romney senior strategist who said after the primary Romney would shake up his campaign like an Etch-a-Sketch.
Axelrod focused his remarks on how Romney managed the Massachusetts economy. He said Romney now wants smaller government, but while running Massachusetts the government grew at 6.5 percent a year, and public sector jobs grew at six times the rate of private sector jobs.
“In his first year, Gov. Romney raised various fees on marriage licensees, cars and on home purchases and everything he could think of, and he raised fees more than any other governor in the nation, this no-tax governor,” Axelrod said.
Axelrod said Romney ran for governor on his record of creating jobs in the private sector as a venture capitalist, but he said those skills didn’t translate to government.
“He tried to bring those same principles to Massachusetts and the middle class suffered — this state lagged far behind the rest of the country in job creation, incomes declined, that’s what happens when you try and translate those values and those principles into the government of a state or a country,” Axelrod said.
Republicans counter that Obama doesn’t have anything positive to say about his own record, so he’s attacking Romney’s.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones said Romney came in with a deficit and was able to grow the Rainy Day Fund to almost $2 billion.
“He made sure we were left in the fiscal footing that was positive for the commonwealth to move forward,” Jones said.
An independent analysis of Romney’s economic record in the state by Northeastern University concludes that in many economic indicators, the state was below the national average.