By Amie Parnes - 05/14/12 04:21 PM EDT
The Obama campaign launched an aggressive attack on Mitt Romney’s history in private equity on Monday that focused on the shuttering of a steel mill after it was purchased by Romney’s former firm.
Romney’s record at Bain Capital is relevant because it “tells us about what kind of president he would be,” Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told reporters.
“What exactly happened at Bain Capital that gives Romney the experience to run a national economy?” she said.
The Obama attacks on Romney’s record at Bain echo arguments made by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) during the Republican presidential primary. Gingrich came under pressure to drop the criticism after other Republicans suggested he was attacking capitalism and doing the bidding of the Obama campaign.
But the president's attacks come with some problems, too.
Obama’s former auto czar Steven Rattner called Team Obama’s latest ad campaign “unfair.” Speaking on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," Rattner said that liquidations are “part of capitalism.”
Other Republicans have pointed out that the mill closed after Romney left the firm in 1999. Cutter said Romney should still be held accountable because he set the deal “in motion.”
Democrats are also connected to Bain, which could complicate efforts to hurt Romney by highlighting his record there. The Hill reported earlier this year that Bain employees have given Democratic candidates and party committees more than $1.2 million, compared to the $480,000 received by GOP candidates and party committees.
Cutter said Obama’s campaign isn’t taking an issue with private equity.
“No one is questioning the private equity industry as a whole,” she said.
But she said the steel workers, who were left unemployed after the mill closed, “really lost out and Romney did not.”
“A president like that would be a disaster for the middle class,” she said.
The Romney campaign wasted no time in countering the attack ad and blaming Obama for supporting “bad ideas” like Solyndra, which received loans from the federal government before declaring bankruptcy in 2011.
“We welcome the Obama campaign’s attempt to pivot back to jobs and a discussion of their failed record,” said Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign. “President Obama has many questions to answer as to why his administration used the stimulus to reward wealthy campaign donors with taxpayer money for bad ideas like Solyndra, but 23 million Americans are still struggling to find jobs.
“If the Obama administration was less concerned with pleasing its wealthy donors and more concerned with creating jobs, America would be much better off,” Saul said.
At the same time, Republicans swiped Obama on the growing federal debt. The ad also highlights the lavish GSA conference in Las Vegas and the Solyndra controversy.
“We’ve heard these empty promises before,” the ad says.