Elizabeth Warren Resurrects ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Line That Dogged Obama

Will Sommer
Win McNamee/Getty

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made remarks in the Democratic debate Tuesday night that harked back to President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” line, which became fodder for Republican attacks in the 2012 presidential election. 

“Look, I don’t have a beef with billionaires,” Warren said at the debate, arguing for higher taxes on the ultra-wealthy. “My problem is, you made a fortune in America, you had a great idea, you got out there and worked for it, good for you, but you built that fortune in America, I guarantee you built it in part using workers all of us help pay to educate.” 

Warren’s debate argument was the latest iteration of a line she pioneered during her 2012 campaign for a Massachusetts Senate seat. But when Obama tried to use Warren’s messaging in his 2012 presidential re-election campaign, he phrased it less clearly, leaving an opening for GOP attack ads that took Obama’s remarks out of context and made it seem as if he was saying business owners “didn’t build” their companies. 

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” Obama said. “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.”

Obama rival Mitt Romney soon brought up the “you didn’t build that” line in a speech, claiming that it was akin to saying that “Steve Jobs didn't build Apple.”

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