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Obama: Republicans Have ‘Tipped a Little Bit over Their Skis’ with 'You Didn't Build That' Attacks

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- President Obama went on the defensive Tuesday over his understanding of small business owners,  saying Republicans, “may have tipped a little bit over their skis” in using his own words against him.

“Earlier today Gov. Romney was at it again. He’s been twisting my words around to suggest I don’t value small business,” Obama said of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee at a campaign fundraiser inside the Portland Convention Center, the second time in as many days he has hit back at the Republican attacks.

At issue is a July 13th campaign speech in Roanoke, Va. during which President Obama said, "Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, ‘Well, it must be because I was just so smart.’ There are a lot of smart people out there. ‘It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.’ Let me tell you something: There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help...If you've got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."

The Obama campaign at first made no attempt to distance itself from the line -- that is until Gov. Romney and others got wind of it, saying it perfectly illustrates Obama's feeling that government, not small businesses or American innovation is the root of all economic success. The now-infamous line has the Obama campaign in full damage control mode, and has the campaign running ads claiming Romney misquoted the president -- even though Obama's words were already public record. Tuesday was the president's latest attempt to do just that.

“In politics you have to endure certain amount of spin," Obama said at the Portland fundraiser. "Everybody does it; I understand it. Those are the games that are played in campaigns,” he said. “Although I have to say, when people omit entire sentences from a speech and they start splicing and dicing, they may have tipped a little bit over their skis.”

As their attacks on "you didn't build that" have grown in volume, the president’s campaign has begun to more aggressively and defensively point out that the “that” to which Obama was referring was the American infrastructure system.

“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 so that all the companies could make money off the Internet,” Obama said in Roanoke, Va.

in a statement to ABC News, Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams fired back, "President Obama said that business owners ‘didn’t build’ their companies, and he meant it. People across this country agree that government isn’t responsible for building our nation’s businesses. It’s just the latest detached remark from an out of touch president who has consistently made life more difficult for job creators and middle-class workers.”

The president’s rebuttal to Romney on the issue of small businesses for a second straight day suggests heightened concern among Democrats that negative Republican portrayals of Obama might be taking hold.

“I believe with all my heart that it’s the drive and ingenuity of Americans who start businesses that lead to their success,” Obama said, testifying to his support for small business owners before a friendly crowd. “I believe in the ability for someone who’s willing to work hard and turn ideas into a profitable business, that’s what makes us such a robust economy.”

And as he did in a new campaign TV ad released earlier Tuesday, the president also tried to clarify his view on the role of government investment in public services and infrastructure as part of a plan to help businesses succeed.

“The idea that what it takes to give our people and businesses best possible chance at success involves individual initiative,” he said, “But also us as a nation working together to create a platform for success.

“Mr. Romney disagrees with this, and he’s entitled to his opinion. But the approach that he’s talking about is not going to help small businesses and it’s not going to create more markets for large businesses. He is wrong,” Obama said. “We did not build this country on our own, we built it together. And if Mr. Romney doesn’t understand that then he doesn’t understand what it takes to grow this economy in the 21st century.”

Gov. Romney and his campaign have insisted even the spirit of what Obama said shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the economy. On CNBC Monday night, Romney himself said even if one believes the "you didn't build that line" was taken out of context, that doesn't help the president's argument. "I found the [whole] speech even more disconcerting than just that particular line," Romney said. "The context is worse than the quote."

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