President Barack Obama's campaign is ramping up criticism of Republican Mitt Romney's record in Massachusetts, while the Republican nominee is contrasting his record in the private sector with the Obama administration's support for green energy companies.
President Barack Obama’s campaign is ramping up criticism of Republican Mitt Romney’s record in Massachusetts, while the Republican nominee is contrasting his record in the private sector with the Obama administration’s support for green energy companies.
Romney on Wednesday night regaled California donors with the story of Staples, one of the companies backed by the private equity firm he used to run. Bain Capital started by investing a few million dollars, Romney said, while Staples executives worked out of Spartan offices furnished with old Naugahyde chairs.
It looked a lot different, Romney said, than the glass-walled headquarters the green energy company Solyndra built and maintained with the help of federal loan guarantees before it went bankrupt last year.
“This was real people’s money,” Romney said of the Staples investment. “It wasn’t taxpayers’ money.”
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Romney planned a campaign appearance in northern California Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, top Obama strategist David Axelrod planned to appear in Boston, where Romney’s campaign is headquartered, to criticize Romney’s record as Massachusetts governor.
In a memo released Wednesday, Axelrod wrote, “Under Gov. Romney, the Massachusetts economy was not at the top or even in the middle, but close to the bottom of all the states.”
For months, Obama and his allies have signaled plans to target Romney’s Massachusetts record, with advisers noting that the state’s economy lagged in job creation and saw an increase in debt while he was governor. The critique builds upon a line of attack this month of Romney’s record at private equity firm Bain Capital, which Obama’s team contends led to job losses and bankrupt companies even while Bain profited.
“Whether companies succeeded or failed, Romney Economics netted huge profits for him and his investors, but sometimes proved devastating for the middle-class workers whose jobs, benefits and pensions were put at risk,” Axelrod wrote.
Republicans contend that Obama’s critique of the Bain record will backfire because it will give voters the impression that he is anti-business.
Romney’s campaign has spent much of this week signaling that it plans to ramp up focus on Solyndra and other green energy companies that received taxpayer help but struggled to perform. Solyndra received $535 million in loan guarantees from the Energy Department in 2009, and Obama spoke at the company’s Fremont, Calif., headquarters in May 2010, saying the company represented America’s energy future.
In August 2011, the company went bankrupt, laying off 1,100 workers and shuttering its offices.
Solyndra’s woes are an example of “what happens when the government puts hundreds of millions of dollars into an enterprise,” Romney said, telling supporters that the government money actually discouraged solar energy because it made other entrepreneurs less likely to try to enter the market.
Republicans say Obama essentially played the role of venture capitalist by investing government money in green energy companies. And Romney said Obama hasn’t done well in that role.
“He invests in something like Solyndra and puts in half a billion in a business like that, and I look and think, `Gosh, when we started Staples, the office superstore, I think collectively we put in a few million dollars.’ And then when it had a little success, we put in more,” Romney told California donors.