NEW: Romney accuses President Obama of cronyism in the failure of Solyndra
GOP protesters try to drown out a pro-Obama event in Boston
Democrats attack Mitt Romney's record as Massachusetts governor
Republicans continue their assault on Obama's economic policies
A raucous news conference Thursday in Mitt Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, with pro-Romney demonstrators trying to shout down campaigners for President Barack Obama criticizing the former governor, escalated the November election campaign more than five months before the voting.
Romney, meanwhile, traveled to a shuttered solar panel maker Thursday to focus attention on what he called a symbol of the Obama administration’s failed economic policies, as well as cronyism.
“The president took a half a billion dollars of taxpayer money and devoted it to an enterprise that was owned in large measure by his campaign contributors,” Romney said of Solyndra, the California solar panel maker that went bankrupt in 2011. “This is serious conflict of interest.”
Congressional investigators looking into the Solyndra case have yet to find evidence of the kind of corruption implied by Romney, the certain Republican nominee for president.
However, the loan guarantee of more than $500 million under a Department of Energy program to the company headed by an Obama contributor has become a favorite target for Republican attacks.
Across the country, the Boston news conference by Democrats opened a new front in the Obama campaign strategy by taking on Romney’s gubernatorial experience after previously targeting the multimillionaire businessman’s background as head of a private equity company.
A crowd of about 30 mostly young, white protesters waved signs declaring “Obama isn’t working” and chanted Romney’s first name as well as “we want Mitt” and “broken record” as top Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod and several Massachusetts politicians spoke in front of the Massachusetts State House.
Raising their voices over the din, the speakers criticized Romney’s record during his four years as governor and referred repeatedly to the demonstrators seeking to drown out their message.
“You can’t handle the truth, my friends,” Axelrod said to the protesters. “That’s the problem. If you could handle the truth, you’d quiet down.”
At one point, Axelrod noted that polling shows Romney trails well behind Obama in Massachusetts, calling that an indictment of Romney’s record as governor.
“These may be the only voters, right here, for Mitt Romney in Massachusetts,” Axelrod said, gesturing to the demonstrators. “It’s a harsh judgment from people who know him best.”
Axelrod also said Romney’s business background at Bain Capital failed to prepare him for government leadership, and his experience in the governor’s office for one term showed Romney failed to deliver on promised economic development.
“He was a drive-by governor here on his way to running for president of the United States,” Axelrod said, later adding that Romney “played a shell game in order to say that he was making progress, and then he left a mess on the doorstep of the next governor.”
Axelrod repeated a consistent theme of the Obama campaign – that Romney’ s motive in business was making the biggest private profit for himself and investors, rather than working for the overall public good.
Citing what he and other speakers called problems from Romney’s term as governor, including lagging employment and increased debt, Axelrod said making profits was “fine, but it’s not a prescription for leadership, as we saw in Massachusetts.”
“That’s what happens when you try to transfer those values and those principles into the governance of a state or country,” Axelrod said.
Before the Democratic event, state Republicans held their own news conference in the same spot, cheered by the demonstrators, who arrived by bus.
Dan Winslow, a Republican state representative, said that under Romney, Massachusetts “created more net new jobs in the state than President Obama has created in the last four years in the United States.”
Massachusetts House Minority Leader Brad Jones said Obama lacked a successful record as president, so his campaign was focused on attacking Romney.
“If he had respectable job growth, he’d be running on his own record instead of criticizing others,” Jones said.
In California, Romney’s visit to the Solyndra building outside San Francisco was cloaked in secrecy, with the destination unannounced until shortly before the candidate and reporters arrived at the site.
A Romney adviser said the campaign had concealed the event location for fear the Obama administration would somehow prevent them from staging it. Romney told reporters his campaign had wanted to head of