Obama senior political strategist David Axelrod tied Mitt Romney to corporate greed on Tuesday as the president’s reelection campaign sought to play to the surging Occupy Wall Street protests.
Axelrod hit Romney as a flip-flopper in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” before moving to his argument that Romney is Wall Street’s candidate in the presidential race.
Obama’s campaign is expected to use Romney’s history as a founder of the Bain Capital private-equity firm as a weapon against the GOP front-runner. Democrats have previously gone after Romney by attacking Bain, which they said had a history under Romney of slashing jobs as it obtained and sold private companies.
The comments from Axelrod are also an early indication of how negative the 2012 presidential election is likely to be.
Romney’s campaign is built around attacks on Obama’s handling of the economy. The former Massachusetts governor has said Obama is in over his head in trying to guide the nation through a difficult economic recovery.
For much of 2011, the White House has sought to strengthen its ties with business, but in recent weeks the president has renewed his call for new taxes on the wealthy and businesses.
Romney has far outpaced Obama in campaign contributions from the major financial industry donors — another sign sign that Obama’s relationship with Wall Street has cooled considerably.
Axelrod suggested the president wants to align himself with the concerns of those protesting Wall Street, but stopped short of saying Obama backed the Occupy Wall Street protests.
“I don’t know that he’s getting into bed with anyone,” he said. “But this sentiment of frustration about what happened to our economy is not just limited to the kids and people on the street.
“You hear these conversations around water coolers and kitchen tables all over the country, where people are speaking about … wages have been flat over a long period of time and people dealt with it by getting further into debt with credit cards and in their homes. That all collapsed in 2008 and Wall Street was at the center of that, and the president has been very clear on that.”
Axelrod also went after the GOP for obstructing new regulations on the financial industry that he says could lead to a replay of the financial collapse.
The president "has been very clear that we need a strong financial system,” Axelrod said. “But that system has to work under a set of rules and has to be accountable, or we’ll get into the same kind of problem we got before, where consumers were exploited, where deals were done in secret — it almost took our entire economy, and actually did take our economy down. Now the same folks who did that are resisting reforms on Wall Street.”
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act is in the middle of a multi-year rulemaking and implementation stage, as its hundreds of regulations are researched and written. Some Republicans say the legislation goes too far and will obstruct economic growth.
The House Financial Services Committee said the law will be an insurmountable burden to community banks, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who introduced legislation to repeal the act, referred to it as the “Jobs and Housing Destruction Act” on Monday.
“There’s a very pernicious influence on Congress, and Wall Street is one of those special interests,” Axelrod said. “You see it in the prevention of common-sense rules to the kind of problems we had before.”