US President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney are pivoting back to the campaign’s top issues, jobs and the economy, turning away from the social issues that dominated after the president announced his support for gay marriage last week.
Obama sought on Monday to blunt one of Romney’s chief arguments — that the former private equity firm boss is better suited to guide the US economy. Obama’s campaign aired a new television ad, Web site and online video accusing Romney’s former firm, Bain Capital, of costing jobs at GST Steel.
The steel mill filed for bankruptcy in 2001, costing about 750 workers their jobs and health benefits.
Steel worker John Wiseman was featured in the ad saying: “Bain Capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off this plant. We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.”
Countering the criticism, Romney’s spokeswoman Andrea Saul said: “Mitt Romney helped create more jobs in his private sector experience and more jobs as governor of Massachusetts than President Obama has for the entire nation.”
Romney has said his firm had a strong overall track record creating jobs, but acknowledged that some of Bain’s investments were unsuccessful.
His campaign has pointed to a net job loss during Obama’s presidency, which Obama has countered by touting the creation of 4.2 million new jobs over the last 26 months.
Monday’s dreary global financial backdrop set the stage for a sharp debate in the coming weeks between the candidates over their competing economic philosophies.
JPMorgan Chase’s disclosure that it lost more than US$2 billion on bad trading bets renewed calls for tighter oversight of the nation’s biggest financial institutions, a position that Obama has supported and Romney opposed.
Obama said in a TV interview that JPMorgan Chase’s loss underscored the need for Wall Street rules passed by Congress two years ago, many of which have taken effect.
Romney and Obama alike contend that in a nation where unemployment is around 8 percent, voters will choose a president based on economic arguments. Obama is trying to persuade voters to stick with him as he heralds an economic rebound, sluggish as it is. Romney counters that only he — with his deep background in business — knows how to jumpstart the nation’s job market.
Obama’s new campaign effort spotlighting Romney’s record at Bain was squarely aimed at working-class voters, a group that has been reluctant to support the president in the past.
Romney’s campaign has worked hard to counter the Bain attack, releasing a Web video about a successful steel company that Bain invested in called Steel Dynamics. The video shows steelworkers describing the company as the embodiment of the American dream, noting that the company grew from 1,400 to over 6,000.
The campaign planned to frame the attacks on Romney’s record at Bain as an “attack on free enterprise.”