Obama targets Mitt Romney’s Bain years

President Obama’s reelection campaign rolled out a broad attack Monday against Republican Mitt Romney’s business experience at Bain Capital, trying to undermine Romney’s core argument for why he should be president.

The Obama campaign began airing a two-minute ad in five key states that highlights the story of a steel mill in Kansas City that the venture capital firm bought and that eventually went bankrupt and pushed 750 workers out of jobs, even as Bain’s leaders walked away with millions in profit.

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Obama also launched a new Web page, romneyeconomics.com, to tell the story of the Kansas City company, GST Steel. And in a conference call with reporters Monday , advisers said the campaign will roll out more examples over the next several weeks to continue driving home their view that Romney’s business experience does not qualify him to be president.

“Romney economics aren’t a prescription for a stronger economy, and they aren’t a prescription for a stronger country,” said Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager. “We don’t want an economy where workers are left behind. Even when a company fails, the financial engineers do well, but the people who put their lives into the company are left holding the bag.”

Cutter spoke along with Joe Soptic, who lost his job at GST Steel, and David Foster, who led union negotiations on behalf of the company’s workers at the time of the bankruptcy. Soptic worked at the plant for 30 years, starting in 1972 at age 21. He told a personal story of losing his wife to cancer after losing his health benefits at the hands of Bain.

“It’s upsetting what Mitt Romney and his partners did to us here in Kansas City,” Soptic said. “They came in, they bought the plant and then made as much money off it as they could.”

The new push reflects months of planning inside the Obama campaign to explore Romney’s leadership at Bain Capital, where he made his fortune as a venture capitalist who bought ailing companies in order to turn them around and sell them at a profit.

Romney has used his years at Bain to justify his central argument this election year: that his business experience uniquely qualifies him to manage the nation’s lagging economy.

The Obama campaign’s decision to try to undermine that credential reflects a bold strategy to hit at the heart of Romney's candidacy. It also dovetails neatly with Obama's own central campaign message this year: that strengthening the middle class is the key to turning the economy around. By portraying Romney as a corporate raider who cared more about his own profits than the steelworkers he left behind, the Obama campaign is continuing its effort to draw a sharp distinction between Romney and the president’s work on behalf of the middle class.

The Romney campaign offered a swift rebuttal to Obama’s rollout, noting that Romney was no longer working at Bain at the time of GST Steel’s bankruptcy. The campaign has also countered repeatedly that there were numerous success stories from Romney's years at Bain Capital, during which he led several companies to profitability and increased employment, including Staples, Domino’s Pizza and The Sports Authority

“We welcome the Obama campaign’s attempt to pivot back to jobs and a discussion of their failed record,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “Mitt Romney helped create more jobs in his private-sector experience and more jobs as governor of Massachusetts than President Obama has for the entire nation.”

In the conference call with reporters, Cutter dismissed the fact that Romney was no longer at Bain at the time of GST Steel’s bankruptcy.

“He set this in motion,” she said. “It was his structure that was put in place, and he was listed at this time as either the CEO or president of the company, was still making profits off this deal, and continues to profit off of Bain Capital today,” she said. “So I do think it’s absolutely on the table as an indication of Romney’s values and the lessons that he learned from these experiences and how he would run the national economy.”

Cutter also said the Obama campaign would highlight several more companies, workers and communities affected by “Mitt Romney’s business experience.”

 
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