By William Frothingham/BU Washington News Service
TAMPA – Barely 12 hours after her appearance as a headline speaker at this year’s Republican National Convention, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., continued to hammer away on the same theme – her sharp criticism of the Obama administration’s policies toward small business – in an appearance Wednesday before a joint breakfast of the New Hampshire and Pennsylvania delegations.
Included was a call-out to her husband, Joe, who accompanied her to the delegation meeting. During Tuesday night’s speech, Ayotte had recalled how her husband, after returning from military service in Iraq, had started a family landscaping and snow plowing firm.
“This notion that [Joe] didn’t build it, or small business owners in New Hampshire and across this country didn’t put their own sweat equity, take their risk, and start their business; I think its absurd,” Ayotte said in a brief interview after the speech. “It really shows that this president doesn’t have an understanding of what it takes out there with our small business owners.”
Later Wednesday, Ayotte made an appearance at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, during which she turned her attention to foreign policy while serving on a panel with several advisers to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
She acknowledged a lack of public support for foreign aid, saying: “Our foreign aid budget is 1 percent of the [federal] budget – but I can tell you that when I go out to town hall meetings in New Hampshire, if I were to say …we’re not going to give any more money overseas, we’ve got problems here at home, I guarantee that I would get a standing ovation for that.” But she added, “We all know that that’s pennywise and pound foolish in terms of protecting our own country.”
Referring to the upcoming round of automatic budget cuts scheduled for January – which Ayotte has calling for a plan to head off – she added: “It only the Department of Defense, which I’ve spent alot of time talking about, [where] our own secretary of Defense says we’re shooting ourself in the head. This 1 percent budget [for foreign aid] is one that will be devastated as well, and it will result in a withdrawal of the United States from the world, to the detriment of our safety.”
On the home front, “We Built It” — a frequent hashtag on Ayotte’s Twitter page and a theme of her speech Tuesday night — has been a major Republican line of attack against President Obama since a comment he made at an appearance in Virginia last month.
The president’s quote – “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” — was drawn from a broader context in which Obama contended that people depend on the infrastructure provided by the government to succeed. But it has quickly become a Romney campaign line of attack seeking to underscore the Republican nominee’s commitment to helping small businesses expand.
“She really reinforced the theme of the whole evening,” New Hampshire Republican Chairman Wayne MacDonald of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee said of Ayotte’s delegation appearance Wednesday morning. “It’s people, it’s hardworking citizens and individuals who built companies that succeed. It’s not government handing them something and saying ‘we built it we’re giving it to you.’ It’s Americans. It’s citizens building it for themselves.”
Alluding to Ayotte’s appearance on the list of potential vice-presidential nominees in the run-up to the Republican convention, MacDonald added, “When Governor Romney wins it’ll be great to have a United States senator who has developed that kind of a relationship with the administration who can carry our water to the White House.”.
In her breakfast appearance, Ayotte characterized the president’s record as “abysmal” in terms of creating job opportunities in the private sector. She praised Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts as well as in the private sector, while rhetorically asking why success has been “vilified by this president in this election.”
But Ayotte received her loudest applause of the morning when she struck a personal note. She pointed to her special connection to the Pennsylvania delegation as a graduate of both Penn State University and the Villanova University School of Law. Ayotte went on to praise both Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett – who was the state’s attorney general when Ayotte held the same post in the Granite State – and Sen. Pat Toomey, with whom Ayotte serves on the Senate Budget Committee.