In a new campaign ad, President Barack Obama hits back personally at Republican charges that he thinks entrepreneurs don't deserve credit for building their own businesses. Obama's direct-to-the-camera appeal may be a sign that the latest onslaught from his opponents has rattled re-election strategists in Chicago.
"Those ads taking my words about small business out of context--they're flat-out wrong," the president says in the 31-second pitch. "Of course Americans build their own businesses. Every day, hard-working people sacrifice to meet a payroll, create jobs and make our economy run."
"And what I said was that we need to stand behind them, as America always has, by investing in education and training, roads and bridges research and technology," he says. "I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message because I believe we're all in this together."
For days, Mitt Romney has led Republican attacks on Obama over his defense of the role government plays in fostering a climate in which entrepreneurs can thrive. At a July 13 campaign rally in Roanoke, Va., the president pointed to spending on education and infrastructure like roads and bridges as well as "this unbelievable American system" and declared "if you've got a business—you didn't build that." Romney and the Republican National Committee have used those words as ammunition to charge that Obama scorns personal enterprise in favor of a government-knows-best approach.
The Republican ads take Obama's words out of context. But the attacks seem potent at a time when each candidate is trying to paint his opponent as out of touch—or worse—on the issue that matters most to voters: the economy, which is still sputtering three and a half years after Obama took office vowing to fix it.
The new Obama ad will air in pivotal battlegrounds Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada, according to campaign aides.
Team Obama has been hitting back at the Republican accusations—with surrogates, with campaign videos and statements, on Twitter and even in the president's stump speech at a campaign event in Oakland, Calif., late Monday. So does that mean the Republican attacks are working?
"I'm glad you asked," campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday. "We are not going to stand by while Mitt Romney slices and dices and deliberately takes out of context the president's remarks on businesses."
OK, but are the attacks working?
"I think it's more that when you have a period of time where our opponent, Mitt Romney, and his surrogates have tweaked and taken apart to such a degree the president's remarks on an issue he's spoken about many, many times, and Mitt Romney has made similar points, it was important to us to ensure that people knew where the president was coming from, how much he supports entrepreneurs and small business owners, and how their records contrast," Psaki said.
So … is the president doing this himself because the attacks are, you know, working?
"Well, look, I think the president is a pretty effective communicator and an effective advocate for his policies," Psaki said. "Entrepreneurs and small business owners, the people who run those businesses on Main Streets across the country are the drivers of our economy. He absolutely believes in that."
"It's, in fact, been a part of his stump speech and his remarks for a very long period of time," she said.
But Romney's campaign isn't about to let this one go. In a statement about the ad, Romney spokesman Ryan Williams told reporters: "It's clear what President Obama believes because he told us: 'If you've got a business--you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.' He said it, and he meant it."