Romney’s comments marked a shift in focus after several days in which his campaign sought to deflect attacks from the Obama campaign over the role that Bain Capital, his former firm, played in the overseas outsourcing trend that accelerated in the 1990s.
Obama, Vice President Biden and top campaign operatives have seized on a Washington Post article published Friday that said Bain Capital invested in companies that specialized in moving work overseas. The Obama team released tough ads in the swing states of Iowa, Ohio and Virginia on the subject.
The language in the commercials went beyond the Post article by calling Romney himself an “outsourcing pioneer” and suggesting that the former Massachusetts governor would be the “outsourcer in chief” if elected. The article described some companies Bain invested in as “pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories.”
The Romney campaign has criticized the Post article, saying that none of the companies cited sent jobs overseas during Romney’s tenure at the private-equity firm. He left in 1999. In material distributed to reporters on Wednesday, the campaign said that those companies added American jobs while Romney was at Bain and that their expanded overseas operations were aimed at supporting U.S. exports.
Representatives of the Romney campaign met with Post editors and asked for a retraction, but Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said after the meeting that The Post is “confident of its reporting.”
The Post article was based on filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which showed that Bain had invested in several firms that described their businesses as helping other companies shift work to or expand overseas. The practice of shifting some processes to other companies or countries that can do them more efficiently has become widespread in recent decades as firms seek to become more competitive.
The companies cited in the article — including Corporate Software, Stream International and Modus Media — emerged in the 1990s as specialists in the outsourcing of work and logistics for companies worldwide.
By investing in these companies, Bain was prescient. It caught an outsourcing wave that would transform the global economy, prove highly profitable for many firms and reduce prices for many consumers. But work opportunities for Americans in some industries would diminish as the trend accelerated, making the practice politically unpopular in many places.
Romney has spent the past two days in Virginia, a state that he said will pick the White House winner in November.
After speaking in Sterling, Romney met with Jim Wilson, a Virginia “super fan” who has spent the past year trailing the Republican’s campaign. Wilson’s white GMC pickup truck burst into flames last week, and the campaign donated a new white truck. Romney also gave Wilson an accessory for his travels: a fire extinguisher.
As he stood next to Romney, Wilson — in his trademark shorts and white socks — said: “That’s the trophy!”
Staff writer Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.