Obama campaign claims Romney would be 'outsourcer-in-chief'

President Obama's reelection team claimed on Friday that Mitt Romney would serve as "an outsourcer-in-chief in the Oval Office."

Team Obama has seized on a report that Bain Capital invested in firms that specialized in outsourcing American jobs overseas during Romney's tenure at the venture capital firm.

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But the Romney campaign calls the story "fundamentally flawed," maintaining that the report in the Washington Post confuses outsourcing — essentially hiring another company to perform work that had traditionally been done in-house — with offshoring, where American jobs are sent to lower-paid workers in other countries.

The dueling campaigns lobbed accusations back and forth Friday over the article, which details filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that reveal Bain Capital provided funds to some of the first firms to specialize in outsourcing American jobs.

Top Obama strategist David Axelrod argued the story was "significant moment in this campaign."

"This is really significant because throughout this campaign Gov. Romney has suggested that the experience he has in business has given him special insights into the economy and that would translate into jobs and growth and benefits to the American worker. This article speaks to the kind of experience he has, the kind of insights he may have drawn from this experience, and it goes to the fundamental question of whether that's the experience we need in the Oval Office," said Axelrod on a conference call with reporters. "Do we need the philosophy that embraces outsourcing and offshoring as a positive tool in our economy?"

The report has provided new life on the issue of Bain Capital for the Obama campaign, which saw early attack ads critical of Romney's tenure at the firm derailed when top-level surrogates — including former President Clinton and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker — criticized their tone.

A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last month showed the attacks failed to gain traction, however, with half of respondents saying they did not know what Bain Capital was. Of those who did, 19 percent viewed the firm negatively, 9 percent viewed it positively and 19 percent were neutral.

The Romney campaign argued the Post story falsely gave the impression that the firms that Bain invested in helped move American jobs overseas.

“This is a fundamentally flawed story that does not differentiate between domestic outsourcing versus offshoring nor versus work done overseas to support U.S. exports. Mitt Romney spent 25 years in the real world economy so he understands why jobs come and they go," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a statement.

The Romney campaign also noted that some of the overseas call centers cited by the Post story were built in other countries to service foreign customers who spoke different languages.

Obama's surrogates dismissed that defense Friday, saying that many of the jobs moved by companies Bain invested in went from the United States to foreign workers.

"Anybody who looks critically at Bain, not just these investments, but the entirety of its profile under the governor's stewardship will see that well more than three-quarters of their jobs actions had to do with offshoring as contrasted with domestic outsourcing," said Leo Hendry, the managing partner of InterMedia, on the call with reporters.

Hendry went on to say that even in instances where jobs were domestically outsourced to other American firms, that normally meant that a long-tenured or union worker lost their job in favor of someone willing to work for less, ultimately hurting the middle class.

"I'll leave it to Gov. Romney and his campaign to explain to workers in Ohio and Michigan and all over this country the difference between offshoring and outsourcing," Axelrod said. "I don't think either in the minds of most Americans wherever they live is a prescription for a better economic future."

The Romney campaign said Friday that the president's continued attacks on the private sector would make an economic recovery less likely.

"As President, [Romney] will implement policies that make it easier and more attractive for companies to create jobs here at home. President Obama's attacks on profit and job creators make it less attractive to create jobs in the U.S.," Saul said.

— This story was updated at 12:54 p.m.