By Amie Parnes and Justin Sink - 06/22/12 10:00 PM EDT
President Obama seized on a new report about Mitt Romney’s business career Friday to cast him as a “pioneer” in the outsourcing of American jobs.
Speaking at a campaign rally in Tampa, Fla., Obama trotted out a new line of attack against Romney, who has made his business career a central plank of his run for the White House.
"We do not need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office, we need a president who will fight for American jobs and fight for American manufacturing,” Obama said at Hillsborough Community College. “That's what my plan will do, that's why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States.”
The president referred to a new report in the Washington Post that says Romney’s former firm, Bain Capital, invested in companies that specialize in outsourcing jobs.
The president told the assembled crowd that he was running for reelection because of a contrast between "top-down economics" and "middle class-out economics."
The Romney campaign quickly returned fire, accusing the president of using "false and discredited attacks to divert attention from his abysmal economic record."
"If President Obama had even half of Mitt Romney’s record on jobs, he’d be running on it," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "But President Obama has the worst record on jobs and the economy of any president in modern history, which is why he is running a campaign based on distractions, not solutions.”
Earlier in the day, the Romney campaign dismissed the Post story as giving the false impression that the firms that Bain invested in helped move 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,” Saul said. “Mitt Romney spent 25 years in the real world economy so he understands why jobs come and they go.”
The outsourcing story gave Obama a chance to renew his criticism of Romney's tenure at Bain. It's a strategy his reelection team tried earlier in the campaign, to the chagrin of some Democrats who found the attacks on private equity distasteful.
The president also looked to draw contrast with Romney over their economic policies, arguing the importance of infrastructure improvements outweighed Republican budget priorities like tax cuts.
"Look, to get our deficit under control without sacrificing all the investments I talked about, everything we need to grow our economy, my plan will ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit," Obama said. "Just like the did when Bill Clinton was president, just like they did when our economy created 23 million news jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and a whole lot of millionaires to boot. Look, there are plenty of patriotic very successful Americans who would be willing to make that sacrifice again."
The president also tried repeatedly to link Romney to an unpopular Republican Congress, and blame both for the lack of progress on a deficit deal and jobs legislation.
"Neither of them will endorse any policy that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay even a nickel more in taxes. Not a penny more. That's the reason we haven't reached an agreement on how to address our deficit. That's the reason my jobs bill that would put a million people to work isn't in place," Obama argued.
As the president detailed his opposition to the Republican budget plan, a baby in the audience began crying.
"I see somebody’s depressed about this plan. I know. It’s heartbreaking," Obama joked.
Obama also looked to preempt Republican attacks on his economic record — and addressed the concerns of some Democrats that he is falling behind in the fundraising race.
"From now until November, the other side will spend more money than we have ever seen in the history of the Republic," Obama said.
The president went on to mock the Romney campaign's attack ads with a smile.
"All that money is going to be spent on ads telling you that the economy is bad, that it's all my fault, that I can't fix it because government is always the answer — according to me — or because I didn't make a lot of money in the private sector or because I'm in over my head, or because I think everyone is doing 'just fine,'" Obama said.
"They will have ad after ad and all of them will have scary voices. They'll have pictures of me looking all old and broke down…. That might be their plan to win the election, but it's not a plan to win back jobs."
But the president might have provided some visual fodder for a new attack ad at the beginning of the speech. Approaching the stage, Obama stumbled on the steps, falling to the ground.
"I was so fired up, I missed a step," Obama said.