COSTA MESA, Calif. - With the presidential race reverting to its regular course following the hiatus imposed by last week's Colorado shootings, Mitt Romney on Monday attacked President Obama for failing to understand the business environment or meeting more frequently with his jobs council.
Speaking to a group of business owners in Southern California, Romney said that career government bureaucrats cannot understand the challenges that those in the private sector face.
"I happen to think that for people who have spent their entire livelihood working in government, they sometimes don't appreciate just how hard it is to start a business, grow a business, maintain a business so that you can maintain employees and pay them better wages and better benefits," Romney said. "And I hear it time and again -- people say, as you did, that they think business is the enemy or that business is getting a free ride. And there's a sense that some of you are bad guys. I see you as the good guys."
Obama's reelection campaign actually returned to politics before Romney's. Earlier on Monday, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod sent out a tweet rebuking the former Massachusetts governor for failing to release tax returns as well as other documents from his past. "When it comes to secrecy, Mitt takes the gold!" Axelrod wrote.
At Romney's event, the group of business owners and Romney sat in front of a sign reading, "We Did Build It," a reference to Obama's recent remark to business owners that "you didn't build that." The president was suggesting that business owners benefited from government-led investments such as roads and bridges.
The Romney campaign has seized on the comment, but noted in the biographies of the roundtable attendees that at least three have benefitted from contracts with the federal government. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said that fact did not detract from Romney's belief that the private sector must lead the way in job creation.
"President Obama could not have been more clear - he believes government creates jobs," Saul said. "Mitt Romney couldn't disagree more. He believes that entrepreneurs create jobs as the backbone of our economy. President Obama continues to dig himself into a hole each time he praises government over the American business owner.
Romney also used his meeting with the group to reiterate the fact that the president has not met with this Jobs Council in more than six months while holding more than 100 fundraisers during that period.
"I would suggest between the fundraisers, get together with the jobs council and learn from people who are working hard to create jobs," said Romney, who had just come from a fundraiser of his own in Irvine, Calif.
During a two-days swing in the state, the candidate will raise $10 million from seven finance events, split between the Bay Area and Southern California.
At the Irvine fundraiser, Romney again conveyed his sadness at the mass shooting in Colorado. He suggested that instead of looking for government to play a role for the government to play in the aftermath of the tragedy, people must reach out to their neighbors.
"Our heritage as a nation is when there are problems, people respond to them and people solve them, and so at a time like this, we're inclined to look elsewhere," Romney said. "But perhaps we should say, how can we make a difference in the lives of people around us? And obviously we're not going to be able to go to ... Aurora, Colorado, rather, and salve the wounds of those who have been injured so severely. But we can look around us in our own communities, and if there is someone that we know who can't find work right now, having them in your home for dinner and just finding out what's going on in their life might make a difference."