By Alicia M. Cohn - 05/31/12 04:12 PM EDT
Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod was shouted down Thursday at an event in Boston that was staged to attack Mitt Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts.
Axelrod called the press conference to hammer home the Obama campaign's critique of Romney's time as governor, and brought along officials from around the state to reinforce the message.
But the pro-Obama speakers had to shout to be heard over the "boos" from Romney supporters who showed up for the event. Holding "Obama Isn’t Working" and other pro-Romney signs, they blew bubbles at the stage and loudly chanted, "Where are the jobs?" and "broken record."
"You can shout down speakers, my friends, but it's hard to Etch A Sketch the truth away," Axelrod said, referring to a remark from a Romney strategist about the presumptive GOP nominee’s move into the general election campaign
A visibly irritated Axelrod took another shot at the protesters later in the event as he strained to hear questions from reporters.
"You can't handle the truth, my friends," Axelrod said. "If you could handle the truth, you'd quiet down."
Amid the chants and protests, Axelrod attempted to stay on message, saying that Massachusetts was 47th in the nation on job creation during Romney's time as governor and that many fees were increased under "this 'no-tax' governor."
Romney "played a shell game in order to say that he was making progress and then he pushed the mess onto the doorstep of the next governor," Axelrod charged.
"I think that for those who are concerned about the issues of jobs, of debt, of the array of things that we've debated in this election, it would behoove the public to look at Mitt Romney's record here in Massachusetts," he said. "He's not what he seems."
But the protesters were clearly an annoyance to Axelrod. At one point, he declared Massachusetts "Obama country."
"These may be the only voters right here for Mitt Romney in Massachusetts," Axelrod said of the crowd, while calling the protest "the great pageant of Democracy."
"I get tweets from some of these folks, so I feel close to them," he quipped.
Joe Curtatone, the mayor of Sommerville, Mass., tried to turn the antics against the Romney backers in the crowd.
"Thank you for the bubbles; it's a hell of a lot better than the smoke that Mitt Romney blew at us 10 years ago and that he's blowing all across America," Curtatone said.
Romney fired back at Axelrod from the other side of the country, where he was campaigning Thursday.
"[We’re] happy to compare the 4.7 percent unemployment rate Mitt Romney achieved in Massachusetts to President Obama’s weak record any day,” a campaign spokesperson said.
At a campaign stop in California, Romney also made an apparent reference to the Axelrod event.
“If the president is going to have his people come into my rallies and heckling, why, we’ll show them that we conservatives have the same kind of capacity he does," he said. Obama campaign Press Secretary Ben LaBolt subsequently tweeted that Romney's reference to heckling Obama supporters was a "mythic" invention.
— This story was updated at 1:30 and 2:25 p.m.