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Obama camp attacks Romney record in Massachusetts
* Obama campaign says Romney was failure as governor
* Obama strategist makes raucous appearance in Boston
By Ros Krasny
BOSTON, May 31 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's campaign attacked Republican rival Mitt Romney on Thursday for failing to create jobs as Massachusetts governor, calling it more evidence of a flawed economic approach that would be disastrous in the White House.
After weeks of criticizing Romney for plundering companies and slashing jobs while leading a private equity firm, Obama's campaign shifted its attacks to Romney's work in Massachusetts and said his experience did not qualify him to lead.
At a raucous appearance outside the Massachusetts statehouse, Obama strategist David Axelrod noted the state ranked 47th in job creation during Romney's four years as governor, while long-term state debt grew. He said Romney also broke a tax-cutting pledge by raising a range of fees that mostly hurt the middle class.
"Romney economics didn't work then and it won't work now," Axelrod said, straining to be heard over a group of chanting and heckling Romney supporters on his former turf in Boston.
Pointing to the hecklers, Axelrod said they were perhaps Romney's only backers in the state. Opinion polls show Obama with a big lead over Romney in Massachusetts. "It's a harsh judgment from the people who have come to know him best," Axelrod said.
Romney's campaign quickly fired back, pointing out the state unemployment rate dropped under Romney and accusing Obama of trying to change the subject from his own poor jobs record.
"Only President Obama, who has failed to meet his own goal of 6 percent unemployment, would have the audacity to attack Mitt Romney's record of creating jobs," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
The exchange on jobs and the economy, which polls show is the top concern of American voters, comes one day before the release of the federal government's May jobs report. The U.S. unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in April, when job growth slowed sharply.
Romney, who is campaigning and raising money in California, has repeatedly hammered Obama as a poor steward of the sluggish economy who has failed to spur job creation and is hostile to the business world and free markets.
On Wednesday night, he focused on criticism of the Obama administration's $535 million in loan guarantees given to Solyndra, a solar panel company that went bankrupt despite the loans.
'THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND'
"The president doesn't understand that when he invests like that in one solar energy company, he makes it harder for solar technology generally. Because the scores of other entrepreneurs in the solar field suddenly lost their opportunity to get capital," he said during a Bay Area fundraiser on Wednesday night.
"Who wants to put money in a solar company when the government puts a half a billion into one of its choice? So instead of encouraging solar energy, he discouraged it. They don't understand how the free economy works," he said.
Romney clinched the Republican nomination earlier this week with a victory in the Texas primary, although the race had been over for weeks as his top rivals suspended their campaigns.
Polls show the two candidates running neck and neck nationwide and in many of the crucial battleground states that will be essential to gathering the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the White House.
A NBC/Marist College poll released on Thursday showed Romney and Obama virtually deadlocked in three vital swing states - Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.
The Obama campaign has hit Romney hard for his years as head of the Bain Capital private equity fund, accusing it of bleeding jobs from companies to maximize profits before, in some cases, shutting them down.
The criticism has worried some Democrats who fear the attacks could turn off independent voters and be seen as criticism of free enterprise.
At his appearance in Boston, Axelrod was joined on stage by a mix of Massachusetts Democrats, some of whom served under Romney. Many also appeared in a video released by the Obama campaign, called "Broken Promises."
John Barrett, the former mayor of North Adams in far northwestern Massachusetts, said in the video an array of new and increased fees implemented during Romney's term, including those for vehicle registration, marriage and burial, "impacted mainly the average middle income person."
Romney ended his term as governor with an approval rating of between 34 percent and 39 percent, and turned his attention to a failed 2008 run for the Republican presidential nominee.
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