By Sara Murray
Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of insulting the nation's entrepreneurs, as he railed against what he sees as the president vilifying success Tuesday.
Mr. Romney seized on Mr. Obama's recent argument that collective effort spurs business growth, not necessarily individuals.
"If you've got a business you didn't build that,'' Mr. Obama told voters in Roanoke, Va., last week. "Somebody else made that happen. The internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the internet so then all the companies could make money off the internet. The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
Mr. Romney, who amassed much of his wealth from leading private-equity firm Bain Capital, expressed outrage about the comment at a campaign stop here.
"To say something like that is not just foolishness, it's insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America," Mr. Romney said, as he rattled off a list of successful businessmen including Apple Inc.'s Steve Jobs, McDonald's Corp.'s Ray Kroc, and Henry Ford of Ford Motor Co.
The likely Republican nominee was quick to note the importance of the services government provides -- but also pointed out that they're funded by taxpayers.
"We value school teachers, firefighters, people that build roads. You really couldn't have a business if you didn't have those things. But you know, we pay for those things," Mr. Romney said. "The taxpayers pay for government It's not like government just provides those to all of us and we say, "Oh, thank you government for doing those things.'"
The 2012 campaign has again turned its focus to Mr. Romney's wealth, what kind of business dealings he was involved in at Bain Capital and why he won't release additional tax returns to more deeply explain his financial holdings.
"Mitt Romney's campaign has already gone off the deep end today in an attempt to once again change the storyline away from his Bain tenure and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts," said Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign. "As President Obama said the other day, those who start businesses succeed because of their individual initiative -- their drive, hard work, and creativity. But there are critical actions we must take to support businesses and encourage new ones -- that means we need the best infrastructure, a good education system, and affordable, domestic sources of clean energy. Those are investments we make not as individuals, but as Americans, and our nation benefits from them."
Meanwhile, Mr. Romney has spent months tailoring his message on his business success and, when attacked on it, now frequently turns to accusing the president of class warfare or diminishing success. The Romney campaign hopes the attack will hold weight at a time when economic growth is slow and some businessmen, particularly those in the financial sector, have grown exasperated with Mr. Obama's rhetoric about the private sector.
"President Obama attacks success, and therefore under President Obama we have less success," Mr. Romney said. "I will change that."