Barack Obama handed Mitt Romney a gift with his “You didn’t build that” comment, and not just Mitt Romney, either.  Scott Brown has begun using Obama’s quote to attack Elizabeth Warren, the undisputed source of that political argument in this election cycle, in the Senate race in Massachusetts, too.  I suspect that the quote will feature in other House and Senate races for Republicans as well, and help define this election cycle as a referendum on where voters believe economic prosperity originates — the public or the private sector.

If so, Republicans have a large advantage, according to Rasmussen’s latest poll:

Most Americans believe entrepreneurs who start businesses do more to create jobs and economic growth than big businesses or government. They also believe overwhelmingly that small business owners work harder than other Americans and are primarily responsible for the success or failure of their businesses.

Seventy-two percent (72%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe that people who start small businesses are primarily responsible for their success or failure. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 13% disagree. …

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters believe entrepreneurs who start small businesses do more to create jobs and economic growth than big businesses or government programs. Sixteen percent (16%) think big businesses do the most when it comes to creating jobs and economic growth. Eleven percent (11%) feel state and local government programs deserve the most credit, while seven percent (7%) think federal government programs have the biggest impact.

What about the other argument in Obama’s speech — the one that Jazz Shaw found most repellent?

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. (Applause.)

Rasmussen says that fares even worse than the “you didn’t build that” comment:

Seventy-seven percent (77%) believe small business owners work harder than other workers. Just two percent (2%) think they don’t work as hard.

The poll has plenty of bad news for Obama.  More than 8 out of 10 likely voters followed news stories of Obama’s remarks either closely or very closely (84%), with 43% saying they followed the story “very closely.”  Majorities of both men and women believe that small business does the most to create jobs and economic growth, from a list of four options.

More to the point, six in ten women and slightly more men (63%) say small businesses provide a more valuable service to the community than either big business, federal government, or state and local governments.  In fact, the federal government comes in dead last overall on that question, as well as with both gender demographics.  That’s true in practically every demographic; the only demographics where it’s not are Democrats, self-professed liberals, and the political class — and in all of these, it comes in 3rd place.  Even the youngest voter demographic (18-39YOs) have a majority of 55% choosing small business on this question, and only 5% choose the federal government.

The verdict is harsher on Obama’s other comment about everyone working equally hard.  More than three-quarters of respondents believe small-business owners to work harder than the typical worker.  Every demographic in this poll has a majority that disagrees with the President.  Even Democrats (65/26) and liberals (67/25) disagree by wide majorities on this issue.

If Obama wanted to deliberately set himself on the fringe of economic thought in the US, he could not have succeeded better.  Republicans need to hammer this point repeatedly over the next three months, and make this election about statist vs free-market economics.