Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.
McDonnell says Obama “you didn’t build that” quote about policy, not words
The Mitt Romney campaign is continuing to make an issue out of President Barack Obama’s line in a speech two weeks ago that if someone has a business, “you didn’t build that.”
The Romney campaign organized local events in a number of states, including Virginia, where Gov. Bob McDonnell visited a Richmond business to push the campaign’s line that Obama is out of touch with business owners.
The idea, McDonnell said, “that somehow it’s not by their hard work and industriousness, that someone else made it happen, namely government… that’s just flat wrong.”
Obama’s full quote, however, makes clear that what he meant was that others built the infrastructure — roads, Internet, grants, etc — that businesses require to be successful. The Obama campaign says Romney is taking his comment out of context.
Here’s what Obama said:
“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something—there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.”
The Romney camp is saying now that that full quote is even worse than the partial line they were using.
“It’s not the words as much as it is the policies,” McDonnell said. “That quote was bad enough … the context of it shows that he and the administration just don’t get it.”
McDonnell and two business owners at the Richmond event said Obama’s policies and regulations have hurt business or at least made business owners nervous about the future.
“The president is trying to do a tap dance,” McDonnell told reporters. If business owners feel they’re harmed by policies, he added, “I don’t care how he sugarcoats it and wordsmiths it … that’s bottom-line, game over.”
The event in Richmond was held at Ball Office Products; Virginia Democrats put out a press release noting that the company received a $635,000 loan through the Small Business Administration in 2012.
Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, was outside the McDonnell event to present the Obama side, and told reporters that she thinks Obama’s policies have been helpful to businesses.
Of the Obama quote in question, McClellan said Obama “might have stated it differently, but the point that he made is a valid one…. We are a community where you need infrastructure to be successful. While they have the entrepreneurial spirit to get things started, they had help.”