Mitt Romney is slowly getting more in touch with what's happening on the conservative Internet, releasing a new ad Thursday based on something that blew up on the blogs a week ago: President Obama saying "If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that." The ad shows an incredulous businessman asking, "My hands didn't build this company?" Romney's campaign sent a fundraising email to supporters based on Obama's line Thursday, too. But why did it take so long? For days, while Romney's supporters were talking about it online, Romney was defending his Bain record and attacking Obama as a "crony capitalist." As we saw earlier this week, the Romney campaign is starting to talk more like conservative blogs, like when surrogate John Sununu calling Obama a pot-smoking foreign-traveling lefty who needs to "learn how to be American." The campaign has figured out something that if you see something trending on Twitter, it means people like it.
Speaking in Roanoke, Virginia on July 13, Obama said, off script and sans teleprompter, "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." In context, the sentiment, The Weekly Standard's John McCormack wrote Wednesday, shows Obama "views businesses as parasites on society." But that last sentence, all on its own? That sounds comically Marxist! Conservatives pounced on it with glee. (Example: "The Wright Brothers didn't invent the first successful airplane...#BarackObamaDidItForThem.")
But Romney's campaign was pretty slow to seize on Obama's line, at least compared to another dumb thing Obama said recently, "the private sector is doing fine." Romney and Republicans jumped on that immediately. But "you didn't build that" had to fester on the Internet for days before Romney picked it up. The meme's evolution, from what I can tell, went like this: First, the blog Hot Air spotted the lines in the White House transcript of the speech, and posted about it the afternoon of July 14 under the headline, "Obama Channels Elizabeth Warren," and wondered why Obama would want to channel the Massachusetts Senate candidate's viral video. The line then exploded on Twitter over the weekend, as you can see from a couple posts on Michelle Malkin's site Twitchy.
House Speaker John Boehner both noted the line Monday afternoon, but Romney's campaign first mentioned it in a press release Monday night, July 16, noting that Fox News' Brit Hume had said Obama thinks government creates business. At 8:04 a.m. Tuesday, a Romney press release's subject line said, "OBAMA, TO BUSINESS OWNERS: 'YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT.'" Finally, on Tuesday afternoon in Irwin, Pennsylvania, Romney delivered a speech about Obama's line. On Friday morning, Romney's campaign emailed supporters asking for donations based in the line, and released a web video with Jack Gilchrist, a New Hampshire business owner, asking, "My father's hands didn't build this company? My hands didn't build this company? My son's hands aren't building this company?"
Romney's campaign seems to be paying more attention to the conservative Internet, with the campaign promising to talk about his teenage drug use and foreign travel. But while it's great that Romney is more in touch with what his supporters care about online, it's odd that Romney has to use a campaign prop to make the case for entrepreneurs building businesses with their own hard work and tenacity, not the government's aid. Why does Romney need Gilchrist to make that case? Didn't Romney do that exact same thing with Bain Capital?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.