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Obama team Mitt attacks: Betting heavy on Bain

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WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital drew renewed fire Friday from the Obama campaign -- with more coming -- pegged to a big Washington Post story about Bain sending jobs overseas.

The message blasting Romney was the same from different messengers through the day: Obama chief strategist David Axelrod in a conference call, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter in a quickly produced video and another conference call with union honchos from the AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers and Communications Workers of America.

President Barack Obama weighed in from Florida.

"Let me tell you, Tampa, we do not need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office," Obama said.

What's new: Hypocrisy, perhaps. The Post story about Romney, Bain and overseas employment by U.S. firms comes as Romney is stepping up his rhetoric about how tough he would be against China -- and his ability to keep jobs on U.S. soil.

During the 15 years Romney was running Bain, the Post said in the Friday story, "It owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Said Axelrod, "it goes to the fundamental question of whether that is the experience that we need in the Oval Office. Do we need the philosophy that embraces outsourcing and offshoring as a positive tool in our economy?"

Romney's campaign released a new ad on Friday -- lousy timing by coincidence -- titled "First 100 Days: Ohio," where an announcer says, "Day One, President Romney stands up to China, demands a level playing field for our businesses and workers."

Why this matters: Romney uses his Bain experience as his main qualification for the White House. The Obama team knows through its testing that Bain attacks help move persuadable independent voters in battleground states. That's why the campaign has kept up the Bain drumbeat so steadily with a focus mainly on people who lost their jobs at companies controlled by Bain.

Since January, during the GOP primary, Romney has been defending his time at Bain -- between 1984 and 1999, when he left to run the Salt Lake City Olympics. In January, the hits came from now former rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich and, at the same time, the Obama team.

Romney's react: Andrea Saul, Romney's spokeswoman, said the Post got it wrong -- though the paper said the campaign would not respond to its questions before publication. She said it was a "fundamentally flawed story that does not differentiate between domestic outsourcing versus offshoring nor versus work done overseas to support U.S. exports."

No state of Bain: A private equity firm like Bain can pick and choose the companies it acquires. The federal government is not analogous to the corporate sector, having to operate through Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court -- not a board of directors.

Santorum was dismissive of Romney's Bain work during a New Hampshire debate in January: "Well, business experience doesn't necessarily match up with being the commander-in-chief of this country."

Bain's goal is to create profit for its investors, whether through fees it charged to run and advise companies or other ways to pump out cash -- even if the business closed or headed to bankruptcy. Firing workers and operating with a global work force -- and not making U.S. employment a priority -- can create profits. For which Romney now may pay a political price.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 24, 2012 9:04 AM.

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