President Barack Obama tried Monday to tarnish Mitt Romney as a corporate titan who got rich by cutting rather than creating jobs, opening a new effort to undercut the Republican’s claims that his background of business success is just what America needs in a time of deep economic uncertainty.
At the center of the Obama campaign effort are a new website, TV ad and online video including interviews with onetime workers at a Kansas City, Mo., steel mill that Romney’s former private-equity firm failed to successfully restructure. Workers lost jobs and health-care benefits. Pensions were reduced.
“It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us,” says steel worker Jack Cobb. Adds John Wiseman: “Bain Capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off this plant. We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.”
Countering the criticism, Romney’s campaign said the former Massachusetts governor welcomes an election-season conversation with Obama about jobs. Romney’s campaign has argued that he helped spur tens of thousands of jobs in the public and private sectors and pointed to a net job loss during Obama’s presidency, most of which occurred during the first few months of his administration. Obama has touted the creation of 4.2 million new jobs over the past 26 months as his policies took hold.
Both candidates are seeking to pivot to voters’ No. 1 issue, the economy, and away from the social issues that dominated after the president announced his support for gay marriage last week.
Obama steered clear of criticizing Romney during a commencement speech at Barnard College in New York, though he included a passing reference to nearby Wall Street, saying: “Some folks in the financial world have not exactly been model corporate citizens.” He left the more-direct skewering to surrogates and dispatched Vice President Joe Biden to Ohio to castigate Romney over his record at Bain. That was one of several events planned to highlight the Republican’s role in the company he founded.
Romney, meanwhile, prepared to deliver a speech today in Iowa on reducing the huge federal debt.