Updated at 5:51 p.m.
President Obama on Monday declined to back down from his campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital despite criticism from some Democrats.
Asked at a press conference in Chicago about criticism from Newark Mayor Cory Booker regarding his campaign’s attacks on Romney’s work in private equity, Obama defended the tactic and said it’s fair game in a race where Romney has played up his business credentials.
“This is not a distraction,” Obama said. “This is what this campaign is going to be about.”
“If the main basis for him suggesting he can do a better job is his track record as the head of a private equity firm, then both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining,” Obama said.
Obama added that he knows good people in the private equity business, and that making profits is a “healthy part of free markets.” But he also said that the industry doesn’t necessarily prepare one to be president because it’s all about maximizing profits.
“When you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits,” Obama said. “Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off, and how do we pay for their re-training?”
He added: “My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now.”
Obama also praised Booker for his work as mayor just hours after top Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod went on MSNBC and said Booker was “wrong” to criticize the strategy.
In response to Obama’s remarks, Romney continued to frame them as an attack on free markets.
“President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system, which Mayor Booker and other leading Democrats have spoken out against,” Romney said in a statement. “What this election is about is the 23 million Americans who are still struggling to find work and the millions who have lost their homes and have fallen into poverty. President Obama refuses to accept moral responsibility for his failed policies.”