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Game on: Romney sends hecklers to Obama event

By Ashley Killough and Rachel Streitfeld, CNN

(CNN) – Mitt Romney on Thursday took credit for sending a rowdy group of hecklers to disrupt an Obama campaign event earlier in the day, saying he was merely giving some tit-for-tat.

“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,” Romney said at an event outside Solyndra headquarters in California.

Earlier Thursday, a round of vocal Romney supporters showed up for an Obama campaign press conference in Boston on the steps of the Massachusetts State House, in which former and current state officials took to the microphone to blast Romney’s record as the state’s former governor.

Their remarks, however, were largely drowned out by the small crowd of about 30 hecklers, who booed and jeered at the speakers, which included Senior Obama Campaign Adviser David Axelrod, as they stood just a few feet in front of the stage.

The event organizer’s microphones amplified the attendees such that television viewers could clearly hear their remarks but also the cacophony from the Romney supporters.

A Romney spokesman chronicled the attempts at disruption via Twitter, posting pictures of the barricades blocking the area and a top Obama official making his way through a clump of protesters to the podium.

At one point, the top Obama adviser, David Axelrod, shouted back at the crowd.

“You can’t handle the truth, my friends,” Axelrod said to the protesters. “That’s the problem. If you could handle the truth, you’d quiet down.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Romney’s campaign was organizing an event at an undisclosed location, acknowledging they feared the Obama administration would somehow prevent them from staging it.

Responding to the tactic, Obama’s deputy campaign manager described Romney as “paranoid.”

“I’m not quite sure what paranoid world Mitt Romney is living in, but that is just absurd to me for someone who wants to be president of the United States,” Stephanie Cutter said in an interview to air on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”

At the privately-planned Romney event, which turned out to be the press conference in front of Solyndra headquarters, Romney was asked about the secrecy surrounding his surprise visit.

“I think that there are people who don’t want to see this event occur, don’t want to have questions asked about this particular investment…,” Romney said, referring to the Energy Department’s $535 million loan to Solyndra prior to the company’s bankruptcy in 2011 and political contributions some of the company’s executives had made to the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.

“This is a serious conflict of interest. This ought to be a big story. And I don’t think there — I think there are a number of people among the president’s team that don’t want that story to get out. We wanted to make sure it did,” Romney added.

He was also quizzed about the hecklers earlier in the day. Taking credit for the move, Romney said he has held a number of events that have been disrupted by Obama supporters and decided to give a taste of their own medicine.

“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,” he said.

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