ROXBURY, Mass. -- Mitt Romney again hit President Barack Obama for comments from a week ago about small business, seeking to expand the debate -- beyond quibbling over one specific comment -- to address his broader meaning.
"I know there are some people who think that what the president said was just a gaffe. It wasn't a gaffe. It was instead his ideology," the GOP presidential candidate said at a truck repair shop in Boston Thursday, standing next to the founder and owner of the business and his son.
"The president does, in fact, believe that people who build enterprises like this really aren't responsible for it," Romney said of the owner, Brian Malone. "But in fact it's a collective success of the whole society that somehow builds enterprises like this. My view, we have to celebrate people who started enterprises and employ other people."
So far, the Romney campaign has hit Obama for saying last Friday, "If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that." But the Obama campaign has struck back at Romney for taking the comment out of context. It seems fairly clear that Obama was speaking about roads and infrastructure, and was not arguing that small business owners didn't build their own companies.
In light of that, Romney brought up portions of Obama's comments that haven't yet been the focus of the Republican's campaign.
"He said that if you think you're smart, well there are a lot of other smart people. If you think you're working hard, there are a lot of other hard-working people. Where was he going with that? What's he trying to say? That we don't celebrate and reward success and achievement? My own view is that if you attack success, you'll continue to see what we've seen over the last three and a half years, which is less success," Romney said.
The Obama campaign responded to Romney's attacks, issuing a statement and a video saying that the Republican was taking the president's comments out of context and charging that Romney is "willing to say anything."
"In fact, Romney actually agrees with what the President really said, which was, 'If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life,'" the campaign said in a statement.
But the Obama campaign did not put out the full context of Obama's comments.
And the fact that the Obama campaign felt the need to respond was a sign that Romney has neutralized -- for now -- its attacks on his time at Bain Capital and persistent calls for him to release more than two years of tax returns. Two polls -- one a national survey and another statewide poll of Virginia voters -- showed Obama's numbers moving in the wrong direction during the last week.
On Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters that she wanted to move on to talk about "middle income tax cuts" after she was asked two questions about Romney's returns.
"We spent too much time on that," Pelosi said of the tax return questions at a press conference.