(BOSTON) — When senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod held a press conference on Mitt Romney’s home turf of Boston Thursday morning, the anti-Obama reception was so loud and rowdy that his message was nearly drowned out.
Axelrod stood behind a podium at the foot of the steps to the Massachusetts State House, flanked by Democratic state officials and a few dozen Obama supporters lining the steps behind. His audience: a small bank of TV cameras and dozens of young, pro-Romney activists screaming and shouting just 15 feet away.
The Republican crowd held signs that read “Obama Isn’t Working,” “Broken Promises,” “Axelrod is in Fantasyland.” They chanted “We want Mitt,” “Where are the jobs?” and “Solyndra, Solyndra, Solyndra.” The noise was so loud that it was difficult to make out what many of the speakers ahead of Axelrod were saying.
“This reminds me of the time that Eric Fehrnstrom tried to take me down,” said John Barrett, former mayor of North Adams, Ma., of the demonstration. “He didn’t take me down then, he’s not going to take us down now.” (Fehrnstrom is Romney’s communications director.)
Axelrod, who staged the event as a kick-off for the campaign’s new assault on Romney’s record as governor, seemed visibly distracted as he tried to make his case.
“It is great to be in Massachusetts, Obama country,” Axelrod said at the top of his remarks. “I get tweets from some of these folks so I feel close to them. You can shout down speakers my friends but it is hard to Etch-a-Sketch the truth away.”
He then moved through talking points the campaign has highlighted in a new research memo and Web video, that Romney failed to keep his gubernatorial campaign promises on the economy, jobs, size of government and debt and would not follow through on the same in the White House.
“If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because the people of Massachusetts have heard it all before,” he said. “The same promises, the same representations, the very same language. Interestingly, when Gov. Romney rolled out his candidacy just a few miles away in [New Hampshire] a few weeks ago after he clinched the nomination, he spoke for 15 or 20 minutes and never found the time to mention that he once had been the governor of Massachusetts, the one elective office he ever held. And there’s good reason for that.”
“The Massachusetts record was alarmingly weak,” he said.
Axelrod tried to take questions from reporters, who had to crouch down and shout so he could hear. Protesters chanted “Where are the jobs?” over and over.
“You can’t handle the truth my friends. That’s the problem. If you could handle the truth, you’d quiet down,” Axelrod said.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith shrugged off the debacle and said the campaign has plenty of time to have their message break through.
“This is the first time that anyone has gone out and given a full synopsis of what he did in Massachusetts, and we have five months to go in this campaign,” she said. “This is just the introduction of it. Clearly they resorted to some juvenile and circus-like tactics Thursday to try to drown it out but they can’t drown it out for five straight months.”
During a press conference of his own outside Solyndra, Inc., in Freemont, Calif., Mitt Romney said he wouldn’t apologize for the hecklers at Axelrod’s event, claiming Democrats have infiltrated some of his.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said the governor’s statement “invents a mythic event in which our campaign ‘heckled’ him.”
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