For the better part of two weeks, Republicans have battered President Obama with an out-of-context quote the GOP says paints Obama as an opponent of small business. They believe they’ve found a winning approach that has given Mitt Romney real momentum.
On Tuesday, the Obama campaign moved to shut down the attacks, releasing three web videos rebutting the line in 24 hours and dropping a TV ad that will appear in several swing states.
Republicans are keen on making the “you didn’t build that” clip a centerpiece of their campaign for the presidency. Though they originally cut Obama’s remarks and spliced them together misleadingly, Republicans now say that even with the appropriate context, the remark hurts the president.
Nevertheless, the out-of-context quote has been the quote of choice among Republicans. It has been the subject of numerous Republican conference calls, media appearances and speeches, and Romney turned the quote into an ad last week.
On Tuesday, the Obama team responded with an ad of its own, the strongest direct response from Obama to “you didn’t build that” so far. Though the ad represents a direct response to a Romney attack, Obama does not mention his opponent by name.
“Those ads taking my words about small business out of context — they’re flat-out wrong,” Obama says in the ad, looking straight to camera. “Of course Americans build their own businesses.”
The ad will run in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada, the Obama campaign said Tuesday.
Obama said at a California fundraiser Monday night that the ad and the use of his quote represented a line being crossed.
“I understand these are the games that get played in political campaigns,” Obama said. “Although when folks just omit entire sentences of what you said they start kind of splicing and dicing, you may have gone a little over the edge there.”
Republicans have indicated the aggressive defense from Team Obama means Democrats are worried the GOP attack is working. The Obama declined to comment on whether they were worried Romney’s version of events were being accepted as fact. But veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum said Republicans are seeing what they want to in the Obama campaign response, which he said is simply “best practices” for a campaign under attack.
The Obama campaign is showing Team Romney how it’s done, Shrum said.
“The Obama campaign is doing what you should classically do and what the Romney campaign failed to do earlier in this process,” Shrum said, pointing to what he said was a weak response by the Romney campaign to Democratic attacks over Romney’s tax returns and time at Bain Capital. “If somebody puts an attack out on you, you don’t reply to every one of them. But if they put a lot of weight behind it, you got after it and you answer it.”