FREMONT, CA -- Mitt Romney decried what he said was the Obama administration's economic failures and cronyism outside the headquarters of a defunct company that Republicans have upheld as the very symbol of those shortcomings.
The presumptive presidential nominee stood for an impromptu press conference outside the headquarters of Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar energy company that had been the beneficiary of a federal loan, which, Republicans contend, was doled out as a political favor.
"It's a symbol not of success but of failure. It's also a symbol of a serious conflict of interest," Romney said outside the headquarters, a destination which wasn't made public until the last possible minute, even to the traveling press corps that cover the former Massachusetts governor.
"An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the administration had steered money to friends and family - to campaign contributors," Romney said, referring to a series of loans which backstopped the company and would have paid investors back before taxpayers. "This building, this half a billion dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team."
The bankrupt company's opulent headquarters, long a target of Romney's derision on the stump, made for a powerful visual backdrop as Romney lambasted what he said was the company -- and the president's -- failings.
"It's also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise," Romney continued. "Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends."
The appearance came amid a battle over optics between the Romney and Obama campaigns that literally stretched the continent.
In Boston this morning, the senior strategist for the president's re-election, David Axelrod, rallied other supporters of Obama's on the steps of the Massachusetts statehouse to decry Romney's lone term as governor. Axelrod had intended to highlight what he said were Romney's broken promises as governor, though that message was muddled as a Romney campaign aide gathered supporters to heckle Axelrod, drawing the Chicago Democrat into an exchange over their jeers.
"Romney economics didn't work then and it won't work now," Axelrod said over the boos of the pro-Romney crowd.
Here in Fremont, a reporter asked Romney about the guerrilla tactics employed by his campaign.
"Many of the events I go to, there are large groups of, if you will, Obama supporters there heckling me. And at some point you say, you know what, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If they’re going to be heckling us, why we’re not going to sit back and play by very different rules," Romney said. "If the president is going to have his people coming to my rallies, and heckling, why, we’ll show them that, you know, we conservatives have the same kind of capacity he does."
But amid the campaign trail antics, Romney also took a moment to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria following a massacre this past weekend leading to the deaths of 100 civilians. Romney has repeatedly urged U.S. allies in the region, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to arm anti-government rebels and provide other aid necessary to remove the Assad regime from power.
Romney called the coordinated expulsion of Syrian diplomats by the United States and other allies "of course the right thing to do," but also a "very small matter in something as significant as the course of Syria."
"I hope we understand that Syria and what's going on there is a a ray of sunshine in the Middle East because you have a very dangerous tyrant, who has allied his country with Iran, which is seeking to become a dominant power in the middle east," Romney said.
"Syria is the headquarters of Hamas in the middle east. It is Iran's only Arab ally. Syria is the route for arming Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is important to see a change in leadership in Syria," Romney continued, adding that the peace plan implemented there by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was not"advancing in the way I think we could be advancing," and calling on President Obama to take a greater leadership role in resolving the crisis.