Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts just six years ago. Today he’s so unpopular here he’s barely bothering to campaign in the state. There are reasons for that—and they could spell doom for his presidential campaign.
Late in the morning of July 19, word comes out that Romney, in Boston for meetings at his North End campaign headquarters, will be doing an early-afternoon event at Middlesex Truck & Coach, a small business in Roxbury. It’s been six days since Obama spoke his now-infamous “You didn’t build that” line. The president said, “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.” While it’s obvious that Obama was referring to the roads and bridges, Romney has spent the last week portraying the quote as an all-out attack on entrepreneurs. The point of the Roxbury event is to highlight Obama’s flub by appearing with someone who did, in fact, build a business.
I arrive at Middlesex Truck & Coach about an hour before Romney’s visit to find 150 or so chanting protestors. Keri Lorenzo, an organizer for the local 1199 Service Employees International Union branch—affiliated with workers at the nearby Boston Medical Center—says she had to scramble to get them out. “We found out at, what, 11:15, 11:30—we had about a half an hour or so,” she says. She’s happy with the number of demonstrators here, but adds that if she had a day to plan, “you could multiply that by 10, easily.”
There are no Romney supporters in sight, at least outside the building, and the Democratic officials working the crowd are borderline giddy. Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo is making sport of how few times Romney found his way to the neighborhood as governor, despite working less than three miles away in the State House. “There was definitely GPS in the car to get here,” Arroyo shouts, laughing. “Take a right at the Roundhouse!”
By springing the event late, it feels like Romney is sneaking around in his own hometown. And the consensus in the crowd is that this is pretty much his first time ever in Roxbury. In fairness, it’s not. According to his daily schedules from the time, Romney planned a total of eight events in Roxbury over his four years as governor. Six of those events, though, were in 2003 and 2004, meaning that, over the last two years of his term, he managed only two official visits to one of the state’s neediest neighborhoods.
When Romney arrives at the garage—apparently entering via a side or back door—he begins hammering Obama and praising Middlesex Truck & Coach’s founder, Brian Maloney. “This is not the result of government,” Romney says of the company. “This is the result of people who take risk, who have dreams, who build for themselves and for their families.”
Afterward, though, Maloney tells WBZ’s Jon Keller that he started his business with the help of a government loan, making his success quite literally the result, at least in part, of government. Internet commentators delight in Romney’s gaffe, but it’s hardly enough to keep him from continuing to make “You didn’t build that” the centerpiece of his campaign.
That’s not the only distortion Romney’s latched onto in his campaign—he’s sounded alarms at fact-checking operations everywhere with his claims that Obama is “robbing” Medicare of $716 billion and that the president simply followed his blueprint for saving the auto industry.