Romney slams Obama on "you didn't build that" comment in Bettendorf


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BETTENDORF — Contributing to backlash over President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment last month regarding small businesses, presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney stressed his belief that individuals alone can create jobs and strengthen the economy during a campaign event Wednesday.

“[Obama] says if you’re successful, you may think you’re successful because you’re smart, or you’re successful because you work hard,” Romney said. “I don’t know where he was going with that idea because, you know, in this country, we value people who work hard to improve their skills and to get education to get smarter.”

Romney spoke to a crowd of nearly 1,000 Wednesday during a campaign event at LeClaire Manufacturing in Bettendorf. The event was Romney’s fifth visit to Iowa this year. Both male and female supporters stood behind Romney wearing shirts emblazoned with text reading, “Government didn’t build my business, I did.”

Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment comes from a speech he made during a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va. in mid-July.

“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Obama said. “Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet, so then all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

But one Iowa Democrat maintains Republicans have taken the quote out of context.

“It’s really the Romney campaign taking it out of context,” Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said. “How do you deal with that? It really is a dishonest way for the Romney campaign to bring up these things … quoting the president out of context. [The comment] wasn’t intended to denigrate small businesses.”

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he understands both side of the controversy over small businesses because he is a Democrat and owns a small business himself.

“I know exactly what he meant, but there are some people offended by [the comment] and have a right to ask the president exactly what he meant,” he said. “Do I think cutting and pasting that line is cheap? Yes. But the Democrats will also cut and paste what [vice presidential candidate Paul] Ryan and Romney say, too.  It’s a campaign and anything you say is fair game.”

Obama criticized Romney’s economic policies himself the last time he was in Iowa, saying the former governor’s plan would primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans.

“Gov. Romney’s big idea is a $5 trillion tax cut on top of the Bush tax cuts,” he said Aug. 15 while campaigning in Davenport. “A lot of which would be going to the wealthiest Americans who have already been doing very well. And here’s the kicker — he’s expecting you to pay for it. [Romney’s] vision’s wrong, we don’t agree with it.”

Protecting small businesses is just one component of Romney’s five-point plan to put America back on track, which he discussed in great detail during Wednesday’s event.

Romney wants to strengthen small businesses by reducing taxes on job creation, reforming corporate taxes, replacing “Obamacare” — Affordable Care Act — with another form of health care, and protecting workers and businesses from labor unions, according to Romney’s official website.

One political expert says the “I built that” message will likely carry as a theme for the Republican Party leading up to the November election, especially during the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., next week.

“The support for small business has been a fundamental part of the Republican position, not just for Romney but just in general,” UI political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle said. “It struck a nerve among the small business community and fit right in with the message that Republicans are trying to portray [during this election].”

Hagle said Obama has, in a way, ignored the business comment, allowing him to shift the focus on other big issues such as student loans.

“[It] may be the best approach for him,” he said.

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