Harrisburg — Damn the context, full speed ahead! The Romney campaign and Republicans continued their assault on President Obama’s recent “you didn’t build that” remarks in the state Capitol and across PA via a series of press conferences featuring candidates and business owners.
Harrisburg was the second of four such events on Wednesday. Senate hopeful Tom Smith, who founded a coal company several decades ago, said it would be impossible for someone today to repeat his accomplishment.
“America is now plagued by an administration that would rather mock our hard work out of ignorance than support and encourage small businesses to grow.”
David Cranston of McKees Rocks agreed. He said his company, Cranston Material Handling Equipment Corporation, has struggled with business regulations and taxes. Referring to the President’s proposal to let the Bush tax cuts expire for those making more than $250,000 per year, he said that in his case higher taxes would mean less capital, less investment and ultimately fewer jobs.
Asked if the comments had changed his opinion of Obama, Cranston acknowledged that the two had always held opposing views, but that, “It was the first time I was really angry at the President.”
During a campaign event in Virginia on July 13, Obama made the argument that the success of individuals is due in part to the strength of society (roads, bridges, education, etc). At one point he said, clunkily, “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
He added a moment later, “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
To wit, a Democratic tipster noted that Cranston’s company has received north of $60K in federal contracts according to usaspending.gov.
That first sentence, though, is what Republicans are talking about. Speakers in the Capitol argued that that segment of the President’s remarks offer a window into his worldview.
They did so with varying degrees of nuance. Janis Herschkowitz of PRL, Inc., for example, claimed the President had given business owners “absolutely no credit.”
(The same tipster noted that PRL, Inc. received a $167K contract through the Department of Homeland Security in 2008.)
Dee Adcock, whose family business Adcock Pool Supplies has operated for decades in southeast PA, broke out the “S” word. Adcock ran for Congress in PA-13 in 2010.
“[Obama] truly does believe government creates and builds jobs. He truly has a socialistic view of the world. That’s where he’s coming from, that’s where he’s lived, and that’s where he’ll probably always be,” said Adcock.
Kevin Shivers, Pennsylvania State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, challenged Dems’ ‘context’ rebuttal head on.
“Government didn’t do that,” he declared. “Those were services that were built by contractors and others who paid taxes and those taxes were created of wealth. That wealth was derived from a job. That job was made available by a job creator, and that job creator spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how they were going to make payroll, how they were going to buy that new piece of equipment, how they were going to stay competitive.”
The Obama campaign is reported to be preparing a direct push back against these and similar charges, reflective of the likelihood that the GOP has struck a nerve.
Outside the Capitol, the Obama campaign held a brief rebuttal event with state Senate candidate Rob Teplitz. Teplitz works in the PA Auditor General’s office and is running for the seat to be vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-Dauphin).
“I’ve heard the whole quote,” Teplitz said, Shortly before referring to Mitt Romney’s former company as “Pain Capital.”
He argued that the President has invested in infrastructure and education, “so that there’s a strong, positive, healthy business climate so that entrepreneurs can succeed. That’s clearly what he meant, but they take a very small section of that and use it out of context. And the reason for that is, they don’t have anything else to say.”
Teplitz has an interest in seeing Obama do well in the midstate. He said the President won the 15th Senate district with 55 percent in 2008, and nearly brought along on his coattails Judy Hirsch. She lost to Piccola 52 to 48 percent.
(He’s not the only candidate involved; his opponent, attorney and former Dauphin County GOP Chair John McNally, is rooting for Romney and has attended several events for him.)