Obama doubles down on Bain

President Obama is doubling down on his strategy to bash Mitt Romney’s record as CEO of Bain Capital despite squeamishness and even criticism from fellow Democrats.

Obama on Friday called Romney an “outsourcing pioneer,” keying off a report in The Washington Post that found Bain Capital owned companies at the vanguard of the corporate outsourcing trend in the 1980s.

ADVERTISEMENT
Obama’s campaign followed up with a Web video Friday featuring deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter criticizing Romney from profiting off U.S. layoffs.

“While Romney sent American jobs overseas and American workers out of work, he and his partners made millions,” Cutter says in the video. “So it’s no surprise why he’s so committed to outsourcing.”

Campaign manager Jim Messina posted on Twitter Saturday a map showing that companies affiliated with Bain shipped jobs all over the world during Romney’s tenure.

Also on Saturday, Priorities USA, a super-PAC supporting Obama’s re-election bid and run by former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, released a new ad featuring a former employee of American Pad and Paper who was laid off when Bain bought the company.

The ad used tough language against Romney, with the worker saying he build his own “coffin” by constructing the stage from which company officials told workers they were closing the plant.

Romney’s campaign has fired back by accusing the president of “false and discredited attacks” to distract attention from his economic record.

Senior Obama political advisor David Axelrod told reporters earlier this month that the campaign would not back away from the Bain ads and called Romney a “corporate buyout specialist”.

But it remains to be seen whether Democrats rally behind the attack on Romney’s career in private equity at a time when they are under attack from Republicans for not doing enough to support the private sector.

When Obama’s campaign initially launched the attacks, no less than former President Bill Clinton was critical of them.

“I don’t think we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work; this is good work,” Clinton said during a CNN interview. “There’s no question that, in terms of getting up, going to the office, and basically performing the essential functions of the office, a man who’s been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.”

He praised Romney for having a “sterling business career.”

Since then, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has regularly accused Democrats of being hostile to private enterprise.

Some Democratic senators have urged Obama to move on from attacking Bain.

“It’s done,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said last month. “Go on to other things now.”

Newark mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat and Obama supporter, unleashed the sharpest criticism last month when he called negative attacks such as those on Bain “nauseating”.

The New York Post reported Obama’s campaign has yet to forgive Booker. 


“He’s dead to us,” a ranking administration official told the paper.

Obama defended his campaign strategy at the time and said he would not let up.

“His main calling card for why he thinks he should be president,” Obama said, “is his business.”

Obama disputed that attacks on Romney’s record at Bain were a distraction from what Booker called the bigger issues of the campaign.

Some Democrats and liberal opinion leaders are embracing Obama’s plan to take Romney on personally.

“The serious questions raised by the early Obama ads are not whether they were too much but too little: Was waiting until May behind the curve? Are the ads vicious enough to inflict lasting damage?” liberal columnist Frank Rich wrote in New York Magazine.

“The president, any president, should go negative early, often, and without apology if the goal is victory. The notion that negative campaigning is some toxic modern aberration in American democracy is bogus,” he added.

Some Democratic senators have urged the president to return to bashing Romney as a flip-flopper, which Democratic consultant Celinda Lake says is a character attack better suited to the late stages of the campaign.

“That message did resonate and did work and I expect he’ll go back to that message; it’s a very effective message,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said last week.

Republican strategists have privately questioned whether Romney needs to be more aggressive in counter-attacking the president on a personal level.

There is a dispute among GOP tacticians as to whether it is productive to harshly criticize Obama personally given his high likeability ratings.

Obama’s senior advisors and allies have not wavered from their strategy of taking on Romney directly, personally and without apology.

A poll released earlier this month by Purple Strategies, a political consulting group, found that 47 percent of lively voters in 12 battleground states think that private equity firms such as Bain hurt workers. Only 38 percent of voters saw private equity as helpful to the economy.

Burton circulated a memo earlier this month arguing that anti-Bain ads were beginning to shift voter sentiment.

Citing an ABC News report, he wrote: “a focus group in Richmond showed that voters are familiar with Priorities USA Action advertising and connect Romney’s business record to an overall economic system that too often feels rigged against the middle class.”


More in Administration

Obama: Congress should stand down on DC pot law

Read more »