The Obama team thinks that it has effectively dealt with the “build that” attacks and that the issue is overblown — the “drill, baby, drill” of 2012, a rallying cry for the right but ultimately one with limited appeal in the broader electorate.
Nevertheless, there are signs that they see a vulnerability. Obama has not repeated the words that sparked the controversy, and he has toned down the broader argument — that government help is essential to business success — in the six weeks since he ad-libbed the line near the end of a long campaign swing. His speeches have been shorter, with fewer references to wealthy Americans. He is more cautious about portraying the choice that he quite forcefully described that night between Romney’s worldview and his own.
Adviser David Axelrod, traveling with the president in Colorado on Sunday, said the public will come away from the convention “with a very clear sense” of Obama’s values, including his faith in private enterprise.
“It’s striking to me how enamored they are with that theme and how ineffectual it’s been,” Axelrod said. “You look at the polling and they’ve spent millions and millions of dollars on it and it may thrill their base. But it hasn’t expanded their base because people understand that the view they’re imputing to the president isn’t his view. I don’t feel like we have to respond to their dry holes.” Obama campaign advisers say internal polling shows that the GOP attacks have not shifted public opinion.
The “build that” accusations reached a fever pitch last week at the Republican convention.
Obama made the comment in July in Roanoke, saying: “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. Somebody else made that happen.”