Dome: Campaigns battle over small business

abaird@newsobserver.comJuly 25, 2012 

The battle to win the hearts and minds of small businesses continues.

The Republicans have spent the past week or so parading out small-business owners to the media as an attack on President Barack Obama’s remarks during a recent campaign speech.

Now Democrats have joined in the game and are lining up business owners of their own to weigh in on the mini-controversy.

At issue is a campaign speech Obama made earlier this month in which he said, “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. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet.”

Mitt Romney’s North Carolina campaign staff has been working to keep the focus on “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that.” Obama for America has brushed off the quote as being distorted for political gain.

On Wednesday, Republicans were still pressing the point, holding a press conference with Tom Fetzer, former chairman of the state Republican Party, and a couple of small-business owners at Snoopy’s hot dog grill in Raleigh. Romney’s campaign bus took up half the small parking lot, and the other space was filled with campaign staffers, reporters and a steady flow of people stopping to snap pictures of the bus.

Snoopy’s has been a center of GOP attention ever since co-owner Steve Webb reacted to a sound bite of the quote by putting up a sign: “Mr. Obama – I did create this business.”

Webb’s business partner was at the press conference, and so was Juan Ponce, owner of a Raleigh printing company JPF Ink.

Ponce said Obama’s comments “felt like a slap in the face” and that he believes the quote is worse in its full context because it “ignores the businessmen who went out there and took a risk.”

Not all Raleigh business owners agree with that assessment – and the Democrats have found them.

Todd McGowan owns Haddock Collision, a Wake County auto body shop he founded in 2003 that has since expanded to four locations. McGowan was part of a conference call for the Obama campaign and has been calling reporters to give his assessment.

He said he believes Obama was referring to roads and highways when he said “You didn’t build that,” and that the president was not diminishing the importance of small-business owners taking risks.

“He was saying that you’ve got to be in a strong community and a strong society like we have in Raleigh to be successful,” McGowan said. “How could you disagree with that?”

Dalton aims for educators

Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton’s campaign launched a group to reach out to educators in the race for governor. It’s called Educators for Dalton.

Former N.C. Association of Educators President Sheri Strickland is its chairwoman, and founders include the current NCAE president and vice president.

Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is the Republican candidate for governor.

“Walter Dalton created the state’s early college system, led efforts to decrease classroom sizes, and worked to give teachers the largest pay raise in a generation,” Strickland said in a statement. “Walter has stood up for our children and teachers, and it’s time we stand up for him.”

McCrory’s lead widens

Republican Pat McCrory has a 10-point lead over Democrat Walter Dalton in the governor’s race, according to a new poll.

McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor, led Dalton, the lieutenant governor, 47-37 percent, according to a poll conducted for The Civitas Institute, a conservative advocacy group based in Raleigh. Barbara Howe, the Libertarian candidate had 7 percent.

That is a widening of the race since the last Civitas Poll taken nearly a month ago, which had McCrory leading Dalton 46-44 percent with Howe at 7 percent.

The spin: “Any one poll is a snapshot of voter sentiment,” said Francis De Luca, Civitas president. “More important are the trends over time, and those trends show McCrory maintaining a significant lead.”

The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted July 16-18 by National Research and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Staff writers Austin Baird, Lynn Bonner and Rob Christensen

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