In response to the Bain attack ad from the Obama camp, the Romney campaign held a conference call for conservative media this afternoon. That in and of itself — reaching out to media in a prompt response to an attack — is a change for the campaign. Moreover, by putting senior adviser Ed Gillespie on the call, the campaign signaled to the conservative media (which was more often than not at odds with Mitt Romney in the campaign) that the campaign takes them and the topic seriously.

The Romney team pulled off the shelf this afternoon a new feel-good ad about another steel company, whose job gains dwarfed the eventual losses in the plant featured in the Obama ad:

I suppose Romney did learn from the Newt Gingrich attacks.

In the conference call, Gillespie stressed that the Romney team will keep to its message-a-week approach, this week taking on Obama’s record on spending. “It’s a record he’s trying to run from,” Gillespie said. He gave the aggregate numbers (likely four years in a row with trillion-dollar-deficits, more debt accumulated than all his predecessors combined), but he then made a bee line for issues that countered the Obama anti-Bain line. Among the money-wasters Gillespie cited was the Department of Energy “friends and family” plan: that is, the system of crony capitalism that gave out big money to connected “green energy” businessmen.

From there, Gillespie veered back to the Obama ad and cited Steve Ratner, who dubbed Obama’s ad “not fair.” He also reminded the media that Romney was not at Bain Capital at the time of steel-mill layoffs that were the subject of the attack ad. By contrast, he said, “Obama has been in the White House when 23 million Americans lost jobs, were underemployed and left the workplace entirely.”

In response to questions, Gillespie made clear the campaign intends to rebut Bain attacks with crony capitalism attacks. “It’s reflective of the fact that they don’t understand the nature of private enterprise,” he argued. He conceded that there “were successes and failures” for Bain, but on balance it created jobs and made money for its investors.

I asked if the campaign, as some journalists have hinted, was going to make hay out of the layoffs associated with the car bailouts. He noted there were a lot of layoffs but then made a more critical point: “When you have this level of government involvement in the economy,” he argued, then it’s hard to tell whether decisions are made for political reasons or for the good of the business. He used the example of the Obamacare waivers that have been handed out to, among other entities, many unions. He asked, “Who gets the health care waivers?”

For now, it seems the Romney team has gotten itself prepped for the general-election onslaught. Gillespie and the campaign as a whole are working on, as he put it, trying to foil the Obama campaign’s “constantly trying to hold up shiny objects” to distract the voters from Obama’s record. He said Obama may not run on his record, but Romney’s going to run on it.