When President Barack Obama arrives in Florida on Thursday, Mitt Romney's campaign will welcome him to the Sunshine State with 13 electronic billboard ads featuring small business owners declaring: "Mr. President, I Built This."
The ads each feature one of three local entrepreneurs: Tanya Burns, who runs an insurance agency, Walter Garcia, who helms a trucking company, and Lou Ramos, who heads a computer training company.
The line refers to Obama's contention, at a June campaign stop in Virginia, that entrepreneurs need government help in the form of infrastructure like bridges and roads, investments in education, and preserving what Obama called "this unbelievable American system that allowed you to thrive" in order to be successful. "If you've got a business — you didn't build that," he said. "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together." Republicans pounced on the "you didn't build that" quote as dismissing value of individual work and have been using it, in one form or another, to pound away at Obama's handling of the economy, the top issue on voters' minds. While Romney was overseas, top surrogates held events throughout the country on that theme and Republicans kept up a steady barrage of related ads. While those attacks take the quote out of context, the assault has clearly worried the president's strategists in Chicago.
His campaign has insisted that it's not concerned — but Obama has personally led the counter-offensive against it with a rebuttal in his stump speech and a commercial in which he speaks directly to the camera. That doesn't exactly convey nonchalance.
In a statement announcing the "welcome" to Florida, Burns knocks "President Obama's casually expressed disdain for the private sector." Garcia says Obama "was not there on my sleepless nights" and that he was "insulted" by the president's remarks. Ramos said the Roanoke comments "made me want to throw up.
Florida, a perennial battleground state, had an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent in June, higher than the national average of 8.2 percent.