Sunday June 3, 2012

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Berkshire Eagle Staff Story Body:

Berkshire Eagle Staff

ENOX

It’s been awfully quiet around here when it comes to national politics. Election Day is five months, three days from today.

President Obama faces a steeper uphill battle following Friday’s downright dismal unemployment report showing the economy sputtering and stalling. Backers of our former governor, Mitt Romney, smell victory.

At the Statehouse in Boston on Thursday, Obama’s campaign chief, David Axelrod, faced down hecklers as he blasted Romney’s record as a job creator while in office between January 2003 and 2007. Later, Romney told a TV interviewer that since he has been heckled by Democrats on the campaign trail, "what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."

Competing with Axelrod’s media event, nine Republican state lawmakers staged their own, and -- no surprise -- offered a much more positive take on Romney’s record. Of course, no mention of the governor’s one achievement -- "Romneycare."

A four-minute documentary-style video, complete with ominous-sounding music, was released by the Obama forces on Thursday. It portrays Romney as one of the worst governors in Bay State history and includes state and local politicians driving home the point.


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Former North Adams Mayor-for-much-of-his-life John Barrett III is heard declaring: "Mitt Romney was not an effective leader in Massachusetts, and the proof is in the pudding. Romney economics doesn’t work. It didn’t work in Massachusetts, and it’s not going to work in Washington."

As has often been cited, the state was 47th out of 50 in job creation during Romney’s tenure.

Nevertheless, Massachusetts unemployment declined from just under 6 percent at the beginning of Romney’s term to 4.7 percent when he left, and his backers claim he narrowed a $2 billion budget gap without raising taxes.

But we all remember how he raised a wide variety of fees as well as closing business-tax loopholes in order to boost revenue by $750 million, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Even so, the budget deficit was still nearly $1 billion at the end of his term.

Barrett, now director of Berkshire Works in Pittsfield, told me that the Obama campaign’s emphasis is going to be Romney’s record as governor rather than on the private equity firm he previously headed, Bain Capital, not fondly remembered here for its role in forcing KB Toys to shut down.

"In job creation, the results while he was in office were dismal," Barrett contended. "He cut funds for job-training programs and centers and he didn’t invest in economic development."

Barrett said he was recruited by the Obama campaign for the video, as well as Thursday’s media event in Boston and some future campaigning.

"They’ve thrown me in the middle of all this because I was the mouthpiece for the mayors," said Barrett, recounting Romney’s policies that "forced the cities and towns to use up all their reserves, increase property taxes that went sky high and continued to hit the middle class the hardest."

Gov. Deval Patrick, co-chairman of the president’s re-election campaign, is upbeat, as one would expect. Following his visit with Lenox schoolchildren last Friday, he told reporters that while he expects Obama to win, "it’s going to be hard, he’s not taking it for granted, I’m not taking it for granted, I think the American people get that this is a once-in-a-generation election. It’s about the character of the country, about what kind of country we want to have, and not about a lot of the things on the side, some of them intentional distractions."

But if the economy continues to spiral downward, that kind of optimism will be hard to sustain.

Clarence Fanto is an Eagle staffer.
He can be contacted by email at cfanto@berkshireeagle.com
or on Twitter at @BE_cfanto.