Obama campaign plays defense on attacking Romney over Bain

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday defended Bain Capital and criticized the Obama campaign's tactics in attacking Romney's record there.

“It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity," he said. “If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.”

Booker walked back his comments on Monday, saying he was criticizing negative campaigning on both sides. But the Romney campaign used Booker's words in their response to the latest Obama web video highlighting a company that failed under Bain, and the Republican National Committee promoted an "I stand with Cory" petition later in the day that urged supporters to add their support to Booker's criticism of the Bain attacks.

"Romney economics has always been about two sets of rules — one for folks at the top like Mitt Romney and one for everyone else," LaBolt said Monday. "It's time to stop pretending that Mitt Romney's time as a corporate buyout specialist ... somehow means he knows how to create jobs across the country."

The campaign has created a website, RomneyEconomics.com, to list the companies that failed under Bain, and has already released two videos highlighting workers who lost their jobs and blame Romney.

Romney's record at Bain came under attack during the GOP primary, as well. Newt Gingrich was harshly criticized for attacking the former governor over his record at Bain, and warned against attacking free market enterprise by many Republicans. Gingrich's criticism, much like that of the Obama campaign, focused on Romney's claim to be a job creator despite evidence that many companies went bankrupt after their Bain buyout.

Gingrich, like Obama's campaign, argued that criticizing Romney's record was not the same thing as criticizing the free market. But critics argue that the principle of "creative destruction," by which some companies and jobs are destroyed so that others can be created, is woven through the concept of free enterprise.

Several Democrats besides Booker, including former Obama administration officials, have criticized the line of attack, and the Romney campaign is calling it "the Bain backfire." 

Despite that, Obama's campaign pushes forward, releasing another video Monday highlighting the story of SCM, an Indiana office supply company bought by Bain-owned American Pad & Paper (Ampad) in 1994. The company cut wages and benefits in an effort to save the business, but then Ampad went bankrupt in 2000, shedding a total of 1,500 jobs, according to the video. Bain profited $100 million from the deal. 

In the video, one worker calls Romney "the opposite from Robin Hood." 

The Obama campaign maintains that Romney was "involved every step of the way" and could have stopped the closure and saved the jobs. LaBolt on Monday and senior strategist David Axelrod over the weekend characterized Romney as a profiteer. 

Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union" that the point is that whether the companies Bain bought out succeeded or didn't, Romney's team "always walked away with money." 

"It is not right when you have two sets of rules where the guys at the top prosper, no matter what happens, and the workers down the line bear the brunt of it," Axelrod said.

"Under President Obama, more Americans have lost their jobs than under any president since the Great Depression," Romney spokesperson Amanda Henneberg countered in a statement. "President Obama's policies have failed every American who expected their President to focus on the economy and make things better.  Americans expected a different kind of politics from Barack Obama but, sadly, this is just more of the same failed politics that dominates Washington."

To make their point, the Obama campaign included former Ampad worker Randy Johnson on the call Monday. Johnson blasted the "values and experiences" that Romney the businessman would bring to the presidency. 

"He had a chance to save that plant and work with us," Johnson said. "Romney dumped it, that was it."

Johnson acknowledged that Romney faxed an apologetic letter to the plant following the layoffs, but characterized it as "condescending towards labor" and not "much help to the workers that were losing their jobs that day."

This post was updated at 1:26 p.m.