Boston Takes Center Stage In Fight For White House

President Obama’s re-election campaign is training some of its heaviest guns on a new target — the four years that GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney served as governor of Massachusetts.

In Boston Thursday, David Axelrod, a top Obama campaign adviser, joined Democratic state legislators and mayors on the steps of the State House to lampoon Romney’s record there as governor between 2003 and 2007.

It’s all part of a wider effort to shift the focus from Romney’s work in the private sector, which has given some pro-business Democrats heartburn, to his one and only stint as an elected official.

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 this week.

Debating Romney’s Record

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, saying “Romney economics doesn’t work. It didn’t work in Massachusetts and it’s not gonna work in Washington.”

Democrats called the Thursday morning news conference in Boston to amplify their attacks on Romney’s record as governor.

But a crowd of the former governor’s supporters got there first.

Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams was also on hand to defend the former governor’s record in office.

“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,” said Williams.

Later, when Pat Haddad, the Democratic speaker pro tempore of the House, got up to speak, Romney supporters were still there, heckling the Obama supporters and blowing soap bubbles.

“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,” said Haddad.

But the greatest scorn from camp Romney was heaped on the top Obama adviser who’d just met with local Democrats behind closed doors, David Axelrod.

As he tried to communicate to the phalanx of reporters arrayed in front of him, Romney supporters kept trying to drown him out.

Axelrod responded to the hecklers, saying, “you can shout down speakers, my friends but it’s hard to etch-a-sketch the truth away.”

As the sidewalk circus continued, Axelrod assailed Romney’s record in the statehouse.

Moderate Or Extreme?

Later, in an interview with NPR, Axelrod responded to whether the Obama campaign might also be reminding people that Romney was elected as a moderate.

“I take Governor Romney at his word, he’s not a moderate, he’s a severe conservative. isn’t that what he said?,” responded Axelrod.

When again asked whether spotlighting his record as governor was a way to underscore that, Axelrod replied, “I just simply want to underscore… 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.”

Campaigning in California Thursday, 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.

“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,” said Romney.

For this week, at least, on the campaign trail, it’s all about how each man has governed.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.