As Obama attacks, Romney defends his record at Bain

(CBS News) Responding to attacks by the Obama campaign about his work at the helm of Bain Capital, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney defended his record in an interview today, saying he "was no longer" at the company when it closed a steel factory.

"That's hardly something that was done on my watch," Romney said on Wednesday in an interview with the conservative website Hot Air. "They said, 'Oh, gosh, Gov. Romney at Bain Capital closed down a steel factory.' But the problem, of course, is that the steel factory closed down two years after I left Bain Capital. I was no longer there."

The Obama campaign launched an aggressive attack earlier this week on Romney's leadership of the private equity firm, using a two-minute advertisement profiling a steelworker with GST Steel whose job and pension were cut. The company was acquired by Bain in 1993 and filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

The Obama campaign on Wednesday expanded their effort to characterize Romney as an executive concerned about the bottom line and not American jobs. In a conference call with reporters, two workers - Cindy Hewitt, former Dade Behring employee and Randy Johnson, a former employee at SCM Office Supplies - told their story of losing jobs after a Bain acquisition.

"He fired me, he fired my coworkers," said Randy Johnson, who worked at SCM Office Supplies when it was acquired by Bain-owned Ampad in 1994. Johnson also appeared at a campaign event with Vice President Joe Biden in Ohio on Wednesday.

Romney often points to his business experience as proof that he understands that the private sector fuels job creation, not government.

"And of course they don't mention a couple of other things. One is that we were able to help create over 100,000 jobs," Romney told Hot Air Host Ed Morrissey on Wednesday. His campaign pointed to his website that says that Bain helped to create 120,000 jobs while he lead the private equity firm.

However, a Washington Post fact check gave the claim "three Pinocchios," saying that it "does not pass the laugh test" because the focus of Bain was to make companies profitable for investors, not to create jobs. In addition, The Washington Post notes that it is "unclear" that Romney had a direct role in creating jobs at Bain-invested companies.

Despite claims by both campaigns, the battle over Bain continues. Romney on Wednesday also charged the president with profiting from the industry he is attacking: "Oh, and by the way, he has no problem going out and doing fundraisers with Bain Capital and private equity people."

However, President Obama is walking a fine line. His campaign's attacks on Bain might impact his support of the industry. According BuzzFeed, one of his campaign's bundlers, who has raised more than $100,000 for the president, is disheartened by the president's "vilification" of private equity.

Deputy Campaign Director Stephanie Cutter insists that the campaign is not attacking the private equity industry, but Romney's "values" as a "buyout specialist."

"No one is questing the private equity industry," Cutter told reporters on Wednesday, but they are questioning "Romney economics" of "creating wealth for investors."

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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