White House GOP hopeful Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital--how the company made money and how jobs were created and lost--continues to be a central matter in the 2012 race. On Sunday, President Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" hosted by Candy Crowley, focused on how companies like Bain make money compared to a broader question of what an approach should be by a president.
"Saving an industry, as the president did, is different than strip mining companies in order to - in order to profit off of them, which is, in many cases, what Mr. Romney did," Axelrod told Crowley. "The question is, is that the philosophy that you want in the White House?"
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, earlier told CBS he had to make tough choices at times.
"The president took the reins of General Motors and Chrysler, closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers," Romney said. "He did it to try and save the business. We also had, on occasion, to do things that are tough, to try and save a business."
Click below for CNN transcript...
below, Axelrod transcript....
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": Joining me here in Washington, David Axelrod, senior strategist for the Obama reelection campaign.
I'm tempted to ask you if they dragged you back to Washington from Chicago.
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: No, no. I always like coming. Washington's a great place to visit; Chicago's a wonderful place to live.
Well, let me bring you some---a very Washington thing and that is poll numbers. The latest CNN/ORC poll, the question was, "Who can best get the economy moving? Who can get the economy moving?" Under Obama, 40 percent; Romney, 53 percent.
Where -- you obviously think there's a disconnect here. Where is it?
AXELROD: Well, I think that's what campaigns are for, and we're going to have a big debate about our visions for the future.
You know, Governor Romney told -- some voter was sharing her economic concerns with him about her own life the other day, and he said, one, you know, he gave her a whole treatise on the economy, and said what -- finished by saying, well, you know, productivity equals income.
Well, he misses the central issue of our time. Americans aren't -- it's not that they're not working hard enough. They're working harder than they've ever worked, and for the last decade, their income has been flat -- really, for several decades -- and it's dropped in the last decade.
That is a central issue of our time. How do we create an economy which the middle class is growing, wages are growing, standards of living are not declining, but growing? That's what a successful economy looks like. He misses that point.
And we're going to have a big debate about how we achieve that kind of economy. It's not just about folks at the top doing well, it's about everybody having the opportunity to get ahead.
CROWLEY: But couldn't that huge gap, which is a pretty big gap between those who think he can handle the economy, as opposed to Mitt Romney, couldn't it also be that from the day -- from the month the president took office, we still have 1.7 million fewer jobs --
AXELROD: Candy, let's have..
CROWLEY: In the marketplace.
AXELROD: You know what, I'm happy to have that discussion.
Do you know that when he was campaigning for president in 2007 and 2008, Governor Romney had nothing but praise for the economic policies that were in place at that time, as America was sliding into the worst recession since the Great Depression, after eight years in which we...
CROWLEY: But this isn't Romney, this is a fact.
AXELROD: -- after which we squandered a $2 trillion surplus?
The worst month that we've had of job loss was the month that this president took office from the last administration. And since that time, we've created 3 million private sector jobs. If you look at the chart, the chart's going like this. We've had 22 straight months of private sector job growth.
Now we need to accelerate that, but the fact is Governor Romney praised the policies that got us into this mess, he wants to go back to those policies, and he assigns everything that's gone wrong in our economy to the president, and he says everything that's gone right has nothing to do with him.
CROWLEY: Let me talk a bit about Bain Capital, it's where Mitt Romney, you know, ran the company --
AXELROD: I've heard that.
CROWLEY: -- he has -- but I -- and it has been the quite rage subject on the campaign trail.
And one of the things that you all have said, and tried to reiterate what some of his Republican rivals are saying, is, listen, this guy is a big corporate raider. He went in, he, you know, closed up companies, lost all these jobs.
He was asked about this recently on CBS, and I want to tell you -- want to play for our audience something he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the general election, I'll be pointing out that the president took the reins of General Motors and Chrysler, closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers. He did it to try and save the business. We also had, on occasion, to do things that are tough, to try and save a business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Got to do things that are tough to try to save a business.
Does he have a point?
AXELROD: Let me point out that there are 150,000 more people working in the auto industry today because --
CROWLEY: There are, but they did lay off people.
AXELROD: -- they would have lost -- if we had followed Governor Romney's prescription, which was to let Detroit go, he was -- he famously wrote an op-ed saying, let Detroit go bankrupt. If that had happened, we would have lost 1.4 million jobs.
AXELROD: -- The reason that he-his work at Bain is an issue is because Governor Romney has offered his business experience as his sole credential, really, for being President of the United States. So it behooves everybody to look at what that experience is.
The truth is that he closed 1,000 or more factories, stores and offices. He outsourced tens of thousands of jobs. He took 12 -- just a second -- he took 12 companies to bankruptcy, on which he and his partners made hundreds of millions of dollars.
CROWLEY: But the point here is, I think, that doesn't he have a point by showing, look, the president had to say to GM, for instance, you got to lose some of these jobs. They closed up dealerships. So in order to make the company healthy, and able to move on to then create more jobs, they had to cut jobs.
AXELROD: Look, first of all, the bankruptcies that I -- that I cited, the 12 bankruptcies were ones in which he participated and which he and his partners made hundreds of millions of dollars. He is the one who is claiming job gains for companies -- from companies after he and his -- and Bain got out of them, years after he and Bain got out of them.
I'm just assigning to him the things that he personally was --
CROWLEY: We're talking about a record that isn't there at the moment.
AXELROD: -- was -- that he was responsible for.
But in -- and closing, you know, saving an industry, as the president did, is different than strip mining companies in order to -- in order to profit off of them, which is, in many cases, what Mr. Romney did.
Again, he's entitled to do that, and that is -- that was his business practice. He's entitled to do that. Nobody's begrudging that.
The question is, is that the philosophy that you want in the White House? Is that the economic vision for this country: outsourcing, off-shoring, stripping down companies, lowering wages, lowering benefits? I don't think that's the future for this country.
CROWLEY: OK, can -- let me set that aside and try to get you in this final minute I have with you to frame up for me several possibilities in a sentence.
What would a race be about, Obama versus Romney? What is that in one sentence? What that -- what is the core of that race?
AXELROD: It's about how we -- not just we rebuild our economy, but we embrace those values that we're building an economy where middle class is growing and people can work hard and get ahead in this country again.
AXELROD: Well, I think it's largely going to be the same.
I think the central issue of our time is how we create an economy in which the middle class is growing once again, in which people who can believe that if they work hard, they get ahead; if they're responsible, they'll be rewarded; if they're not responsible, people aren't responsible or institutions, they'll be held accountable.
That's what people are looking for. That's what our -- that's where our future should lie.
CROWLEY: Somebody in your campaign told me not that long ago, when I said what are you most worried about, in terms of campaign strategy, is it Romney, is it Gingrich, is it -- and he said, no, it's the economy.
Does that still hold true?
AXELROD: Well, I think external factors, what happens in Europe, you know, what happens in other places in the world.
And frankly, the other thing that worries me are these big super PACs that we see Governor Romney and others benefiting from right now. I think there's going to be a ton of money aimed at the president --
CROWLEY: Democratic ones too, though.
AXELROD: Well, but not nearly of the scale that we're seeing on the Republican side. They're talking upwards of half a billion dollars in negative ads aimed at the president from interest groups who don't disclose and who can raise unlimited amounts of money. That is a very, very concerning thing to me.
CROWLEY: David Axelrod, thank you for visiting Washington.
AXELROD: Always good to be with you.
CROWLEY: We appreciate it.
AXELROD: Thank you.
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