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Booker does damage control over remarks defending Bain Capital

Cory Booker said he was “upset” that Republicans and Mitt Romney's presidential campaign were using his criticism of an Obama campaign ad against the president’s reelection effort.

“This will cause me to work harder for President Obama,” the mayor of Newark, N.J., said Monday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC. “I’m upset with being manipulated by the cynical right. That’s why I’m on your show.”

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The controversy began Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when Booker responded to an ad by the Obama campaign that slammed Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, for his work at Bain Capital, a private-equity firm. 

Booker, a Democrat and Obama surrogate, said he wouldn't indict private equity and that Bain's record, in its totality, shows the firm has "done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses."

"This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides," Booker said on Sunday regarding negative ads. "It's nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough."

The GOP jumped on Booker’s remarks, launching a petition drive on Monday, urging voters to “stand with Cory.”

“Yesterday New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, a surrogate spokesman for the Obama campaign, called the president's attacks on the free market ‘ridiculous,’ ” the petition reads. “That's right Mr. President, we aren't going to let you destroy free enterprise. Stand up for America. Stand up for job creators.”

Booker shot back on Monday, calling the tactic “vicious” and “cynical.”

“If they want to stand with Booker, let them stand with me in Newark for the people of Newark, and in Camden, and in Detroit,” he said, adding that he opposes Republican policies that disinvest in education and healthcare.

“Have them stand with Booker against super-PACs,” he said.

The Obama campaign addressed Booker’s Sunday remarks earlier on Monday when Obama adviser David Axelrod said that Booker “was just wrong” when he made that particular remark.

"There were specific instances here that speak to an economic theory that isn't the right theory for the country," Axelrod said in defending his campaign's ads attacking Romney's record at Bain.

Obama also defended the ads in an afternoon speech in Chicago.

“The reason this is relevant to the campaign is my opponent, Gov. Romney, his main calling card for why he should be president is his business experience,” Obama said.