When confronted with his record at Bain Capital, Mitt Romney likes to compare what he did at the company to Obama’s bailout of the auto industry. Romney has repeatedly said he’ll draw this comparison in the months ahead and make it central to his defense of his Bain years in the general election.

Now Dems are escalating their efforts to undermine that comparison, launching a new campaign that includes Web videos, press conferences by surrogates, emails and social media.

The DNC is set to release the first salvo in this campaign — a Web video, which you can see below, that makes the case that the comparison is entirely bogus. The video argues that private equity work like Romney’s is about only one thing — making money — while the auto bailout wasn’t about profits at all, and rather was about restructuring companies in order to save an industry and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The move reflects a recognition by Dems that this argument will be central to the campaign — and that they need to move quickly to undermine the case Romney is already making on the campaign trail, in case it could have appeal to swing voters.

There will also be surrogate action. Dem Rep. John Dingell is set to hold a presser in Detroit today to push back on Romney’s comparison. Dem Rep. Marcy Kaptur will appear at a press conference in Ohio with small business owners to make the case for Obama’s auto rescue and argue that it has nothing in common with private equity work.

Relatedly, Jonathan Cohn makes an important point: Perhaps the biggest news of the day should be that Michigan’s unemployment rate has declined to its lowest point since September 2008. As Cohn says: “The decision to rescue the Chrysler and General Motors in early 2009 was not popular: The only way to save the industry was to put up federal dollars, something presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney now says he opposed.”

The Obama argument is that government has a crucial role in addressing the inequality that has resulted from unfettered free market capitalism and in shoring up the shrinking middle class. Romney’s argument is that his Bain years have taught him that rolling back government interference in the economy is the best way to unshackle the power of the private sector, increasing social mobility and shared prosperity. Exhibit A for Obama is the successful auto rescue, which is why Romney is so eager to muddy the waters by casting it as similar to his own efforts.

And so the argument over the auto-bailout, and Romney’s comparison of it to his Bain work, feeds into the larger clash of ideologies that will drive Campaign 2012, another reason it’s so crucial.

Here’s the DNC's new video: