Obama Campaign Mounts New Assault on Romney's Record as Massachusetts Governor

Jake Tapper
ABC News Blogs

The Obama campaign is opening a new front in its war against GOP rival Mitt Romney, ABC News has learned, with planned attacks to begin this week on Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts and the campaign promises Democrats say he left unfulfilled.

Team Obama will point to Romney's rhetoric on job creation, size of government, education, deficits and taxes during the 2002 gubernatorial campaign and draw parallels with his presidential stump speeches of 2012. The goal is to illustrate that Romney has made the same promises before with unimpressive results, officials say.

The approach is a part of an effort to keep the focus off of President Obama, who has an underwater approval rating and has struggled to bring down unemployment - currently above 8 percent nationally. He and his campaign are aggressively trying to make Romney an unacceptable alternative on the November ballot.

Obama campaign officials say the latest line of attack will be a major focus from now through the election.

A 14-page research document compiled by the campaign and obtained by ABC News reveals the breadth of material Democrats plan to deploy, listing dozens of examples of Romney rhetoric and corresponding video clips from 2002, 2012, and the comparative "results in Massachusetts."

On jobs, for example, Romney pitched himself in 2002 as a conservative businessman who could right the economic ship after the tech bubble burst led to layoffs across the Bay State.  During a Boston debate, Romney said, "I have experience in the private sector building and creating thousands of good jobs, and I want to bring that skill for you here in Massachusetts" - a theme he regularly reprises today.

But the Obama campaign notes, citing a report from the independent fact-checker Politifact, Massachusetts was 47 th out of 50 states in job creation under Romney. In manufacturing jobs, Democrats point out, Romney presided over a net loss of 40,000 jobs, a drop of 12 percent according to Labor Department data.

Romney campaign officials have said in the past that "under [the governor's] leadership and economic reforms the Massachusetts unemployment rate went from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent and the state had a positive record of nearly 50,000 new jobs created."

But economists say the dip was largely because so many residents left the work force.  Job growth did go up with net positives in three of four years Romney served, but the pace was well below the national average during a boom time.

"He sold the same hooey in MA ten years ago, and then turned in one of the worst performances of any gov in the USA. 47th in job creation," senior Obama strategist David Axelrod tweeted last week, hinting at the direction of the attacks to come.

The president's campaign will use a number of former Massachusetts state officials who served with Romney between 2003 and 2007 to make their case, attacking him for, among other things, vetoing a bill against outsourcing.  They also plan to release successive web videos to illustrate their points in what will be overall a national and state-level campaign.

The approach is a shifting of gears for Team Obama which had spent the past few weeks hammering Romney for his business record at Bain Capital.  The attacks had come under fire from some Democrats as being possibly too negative, too soon, while Republicans decried what they called a double standard for Obama's treatment of private equity executives.

"Governor Romney has made his experience as a financial CEO the entire rationale of his candidacy for president.  Now, he doesn't really talk about what he did in Massachusetts.  But he does talk about being a business guy," Obama said at an Iowa campaign rally last week. "He says this gives him a special understanding of what it takes to create jobs and grow the economy - even if he's unable to offer a single new idea about how to do that, no matter how many times he's asked about it."

Obama strategists say they are not abandoning the assault on Romney's record at Bain but broadening their case by turning to an array of issues the Republican dealt with during his time in political office.

One of those issues - taxes - Team Obama believes they may even be able to undermine support for Romney from key members of his base.

In 2002, then-candidate Romney told voters that he would "fight taxes at every turn" and solve the state's budget problem "without raising taxes."  He also opposes tax increases of any kind in his bid for the White House, writing in a USA Today op-ed earlier this year, "As president, I will firmly oppose tax increases."

But under the "results in Massachusetts" column in Team Obama's research document, aides point to independent fact-check reports that found fee and tax increases during Romney's term in Springfield were "between $740 and $750 million per year." The right-leaning Cato institute rated Romney's pledge in 2006 as "mostly a myth."

As they did with case studies of companies adversely affected by Romney's Bain Capital, the Obama campaign plans a methodical examination of issues from Romney's governorship, hoping to dissuade voters from believing Romney can do what he says he can.