ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The Obama re-election campaign has a new target: the four years that Mitt Romney served as governor of Massachusetts - from 2003 to 2007. Today in Boston, a top Obama adviser joined Democratic state legislators and mayors on the steps of the statehouse, to criticize Romney's record there. It's all part of a wider effort to shift the focus from Romney's work in the private sector, to his one and only stint in the public sector.
NPR's David Welna is in Boston, and he sent this report.
DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: The Obama campaign's pivot from Mitt Romney's years heading Bain Capital, to his stint as governor of Massachusetts, became clear in a Web video released earlier this week. It features decade-old clips of Romney campaigning for that job, as well as been-there-and-done-that testimonials from Massachusetts Democrats, including North Adams Mayor John Barrett.
(SOUNDBITE OF WEB VIDEO)
WELNA: Democrats called a news conference this morning outside the Massachusetts statehouse, to amplify their attacks on Romney's record as governor. But a crowd of the former governor's supporters got their first.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING, CHEERING)
WELNA: Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams was on hand, to defend the former governor's record in office.
RYAN WILLIAMS: Governor Romney is proud of both his public and private-sector experience. In the public sector, Governor Romney served as a fiscally responsible governor who balanced the budget every year he was in office; who lowered the state unemployment rate from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent; and helped to create an environment where tens of thousands of jobs were created in Massachusetts.
WELNA: Later, when Pat Haddad, the Democratic speaker pro temp of the House, got up to speak, Romney supporters were still there - heckling the many Obama supporters, and blowing soap bubbles.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)
STATE REP. PAT HADDAD: It's so interesting to see people here who don't agree with us, and to see the props that they're using - bubbles, bubbles that were just like the promises that Mitt Romney made to us; filled with nothing, and immediately broken.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE, CHEERING)
WELNA: But the greatest scorn from Camp Romney was heaped on the top Obama adviser who just met with local Democrats behind closed doors.
(SOUNDBITE OF JEERING)
DAVID AXELROD: It is great to be in Massachusetts, Obama country.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE, CHEERING)
WELNA: That was David Axelrod, communications director for the Obama re-election effort. As he tried to communicate to the phalanx of reporters right in front of him, Romney supporters kept trying to drown him out.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING, JEERING)
AXELROD: You can shout down speakers, my friends, but it's hard to Etch A Sketch the truth away.
WELNA: And as the sidewalk circus continued, Axelrod assailed Romney's record in the statehouse. Later, I asked him whether the Obama campaign might also be reminding people that Romney was elected as a moderate.
AXELROD: I take Gov. Romney at his word. He's not a moderate. He's a severe conservative - isn't that what he said?
WELNA: By spotlighting his record as governor, do you want to underscore that?
AXELROD: No. I just simply want to underscore what the record was, what his record of economic performance was. He is presenting himself as a job creator. He is presenting himself as someone who can revitalize the economy. You have, in this state, a laboratory for his ideas in leadership, and we know how it turned out. It was a dismal failure. And that's a story that needs to be told.
WELNA: Campaigning in California today, Mitt Romney had another story to tell. He stood outside the building that once housed Solyndra, the failed solar panel maker that had half a billion dollars in federal loan guarantees.
MITT ROMNEY: This building, this half-a-billion-dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team. It's also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise. Free enterprise, to the president, means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.
WELNA: For this week, at least, it's all about how each man has governed. David Welna, NPR News, Boston.
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