“Mitt Romney made a mistake ever talking about the fact that he created 100,000 jobs,” Rattner said on MSNBC. “Bain Capital’s responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number. It was to create profits for its investors. . . . I don’t think there’s anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about.”
The Romney campaign pointed out Monday that the candidate no longer worked at Bain at the time of GST Steel’s 2001 bankruptcy; he had moved on two years earlier to lead the Salt Lake City Olympics.
The Obama team responded that Romney oversaw Bain’s purchase of GST and that he was still an officer earning profits when it went bankrupt.
Obama has his own connection to the private-equity industry. On Monday, he appeared at a fundraiser in Manhattan at the home of Hamilton “Tony” James, president of Blackstone Group, a large private-equity firm. Sixty people attended and donated $35,800 each.
This is the second go-round over Bain for Romney this year. During the Republican primary, challengers Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry went after Romney’s record at the firm, with Perry famously referring to Romney as a “vulture capitalist.” Their arguments resonated less with Republican voters, many of whom dismissed them as an attack on capitalism.
Gingrich’s pollster, David Winston, said: “Newt’s attacking Romney over Bain didn’t work, and Newt’s moving off of it in South Carolina was a key decision in helping Newt win that primary.”
Romney responded at the time with a broad defense of free-market capitalism. And he argued that, overall, Bain helped create more jobs than the firm eliminated during his tenure there.
This time, some Republican strategists said Romney and his allies need to fight back quickly, recalling how devastating the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacks became for Sen. John F. Kerry (D) in the 2004 race after he waited too long to fully respond.
“I think the campaign and its surrogates and the outside groups need to get out the real story about his Bain record,” said Rick Reed, who helped produce the Swift Boat ads and worked for Romney’s 1994 campaign.
But Romney advisers said they have no interest in litigating the specifics of the GST Steel bankruptcy or any other examples the Obama campaign may highlight. Instead, they are trying to use the president’s attack as an opening for a broader debate over the two candidates’ economic credentials, believing that Romney’s business know-how is his chief qualification for the presidency.
“Every business entrepreneur knows that you have successes and failures, and in Mitt Romney’s case, he’s had many more successes than failures,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to the candidate.