Obama camp launches multi-pronged attack on Romney's record at Bain Capital

Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET

(CBS News) President Obama's re-election campaign on Monday rolled out a multi-pronged attack on Mitt Romney's record as the head of Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded, seeking to cast him as a heartless corporate titan and job destroyer.

The new line of attack goes straight for the jugular: It hits at Romney's greatest strength -- his business experience and managerial expertise. And contrary to the notion that Mr. Obama wants to avoid talking about the economy -- the issue on everyone's minds -- the new attack campaign illustrates that the Obama camp is ready and willing to go take on the issue of which presidential candidate is better at creating jobs.

The new campaign includes a two-minute television ad that will air in five battleground states -- Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia. It focuses on the story of GST Steel, a Kansas City plant that Bain Capital purchased and subsequently shuttered after more than 100 years of business.

The ad features a handful steelworkers who don't pull any punches in their criticism of Romney's company: "It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us," says Jack Cobb.

After the ad points out that Bain sought to eliminate the company's pension plan, as well as retiree health and life insurance plans, worker Joe Soptic, says, "Those guys were all rich, they all had more money than they'll ever spend, and yet they didn't have the money to take care of the very people that made the money for them."

The Romney campaign has pointed out that the layoffs at GST Steel and its bankruptcy happened in 2001 -- two years after Romney gave up running Bain Capital to run the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama for America, told reporters Monday that it was fair to attack Romney for the management of GST Steel because "he set this in motion. It was his structure that put this in place." She noted that he was still listed as CEO of the company at the time and was "still making profits off of this deal."

CBS News political director John Dickerson notes that the new ad is reminiscent of an ad that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy ran against Romney in the 1994 Massachusetts Senate race. While that ad featured mostly women, the Obama team's ad features all blue collar men.

"Blue collar men have been lost to Democrats for a long time, but President Obama needs to keep his margins down and Romney has vulnerabilities with this group a generic Republican does not," Dickerson notes. "This is also about defining Romney more broadly as a mean person, keeping those likeability numbers low in this period where Romney is not extremely well defined."

In addition to the two-minute ad, the Obama team on Monday rolled out a website called RomneyEconomics.com that includes case studies of other companies that "suffered" under Romney's management, as well as a look at what the campaign calls "questionable business practices used by Mitt Romney and his partners."

In a release, the Obama campaign said the website asks a simple question: "Are the lessons and values Mitt Romney drew from his time in business the lessons and values America wants in our President?"

The website also features a six-minute video that amounts to a longer version of the GST Steel ad.

Republicans contend that any discussion of the economy and job creation should work in Rommey's favor, given the current state of the economy. In fact, some argue the president has tried to distract from the issue of the economy by instead talking about issues like same-sex marriage.

Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul said in a statement that the Romney campaign welcomes Mr. Obama's return to the discussion of jobs.

"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," she said. "President Obama has many questions to answer as to why his administration used the stimulus to reward wealthy campaign donors with taxpayer money for bad ideas like Solyndra, but 23 million Americans are still struggling to find jobs. If the Obama administration was less concerned about pleasing their wealthy donors and more concerned about creating jobs, America would be much better off. "

As Saul points out, the Obama team's line of attack is also risky, given the fact that while Mr. Obama is busy attacking Romney's private equity firm, he's also courting campaign cash from other equity firms. Today, the president heads to a $35,800-per-head fundraiser hosted by Blackstone president Tony James in New York City, a campaign official confirmed to CBS News. The Obama campaign insists it is not attacking the industry overall.

Comments