ROANOKE, Va. -- Stumping for votes near the scene of President Obama’s now-famous “you didn’t build that” remark, Rep. Paul D. Ryan whipped up a crowd on Wednesday with an attack on what he described as a presidential mindset that has created “a welfare state with a debt crisis.”
“It’s an explanation,” the presumptive Republican vice presidential candidate said of the president’s remark. “It tells us why our economy is not growing like it should. It tells us the mindset that he’s using to lead our government. It tells us that he believes in a government-centered society and a government-driven economy. And that doesn’t work. It never has worked. ... Look at what it’s doing to Europe.”
Obama was speaking at a firehouse in Roanoke in July when he described the importance of government in the economy, saying that those who start businesses are given a lift by government-built roads, bridges and schools. “If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that,” he said, with “that” apparently referring to the supporting infrastructure.
Republicans have widely interpreted “that” as referring to the business itself, and presidential challenger Mitt Romney, along with Ryan, has taken it up as a signature theme of his campaign. Banners at campaign events proclaim “We Did Built It.” The campaign has made a point of holding events at private businesses, and declaring that the owner “built it.”
In Roanoke, where Ryan spoke in the parking lot of a hardware store, it took little prompting to get the crowd chanting, “We built it! We built it! We built it!”
Ryan was introduced by Chris McMurray, a Virginia baker who has become something of a conservative celebrity for reportedly turning down the opportunity to appear with Vice President Joe Biden because of Obama’s “didn’t build that” remark.
“You may remember that a couple months ago, our president stood in this very city and he proclaimed the message that if you have a business, you didn’t build it,” McMurray said, as Ryan stood beside him. “We are gathered here to send a message to the Obama-Biden team that we DID BUILD IT!”
Ryan later took an opportunity to take a shot at Biden, with whom he will be debating this fall. "He said last summer was the summer of recovery,” he told the crowd. “It’s a summer later and it’s still worse. ... This is President Obama’s imaginary recovery.”
Although the nation’s economy remains mired in a slump, most economic indicators are, in fact, better this summer than last.
[For the Record, 1:12 p.m. PDT Aug. 22: An earlier version of this online post incorrectly spelled the name Chris McMurray as McMurry. Also, it incorrectly said that McMurray introduced Joe Biden at Wednesday’s rally; McMurray introduced Paul D. Ryan.]