Romney defends tenure at Bain

Republican presidential candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich participate in the Republican presidential candidate debate at the North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.
AP Photo/David Goldman

Charleston, S.C. -- Mitt Romney on Thursday continued to defend his record running the investment firm Bain Capital for a decade and a half, briefly outlining his record on jobs at the company before moving on to a more general defense of capitalism and the free market.

"I'm going to stand here and defend capitalism," Romney told CNN's John King in Thursday night's 17th Republican presidential debate, in Charleston, S.C after former House speaker Newt Gingrich criticized Romney for his record at Bain.

The former Massachusetts governor has faced incessant attacks about his record at Bain, which invested in companies in struggling companies in an effort to turn them around. Thursday night's debate was no exception: Gingrich reiterated his criticisms of Bain within minutes of the debate's start, positing the company's business model as one in which businesses were "less likely to survive."

"He cited his experience as a key part of his preparation for being president. And so I think the underlying model of that kind of investment, which is very different from venture capital, ought to be explained, and those cases ought to be looked at," Gingrich said.

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Romney, prompted by King, gave a brief explanation justifying his claim that, under Bain, he helped create more than 100,000 jobs.

According to that calculation, Bain was responsible for creating approximately 120,000 jobs, and for losing about 10,000 jobs.

"So 120,000 less 10,000 means that we created something over 100,000 jobs," Romney said.

He went on to suggest that Gingrich's criticisms amounted to an attack on capitalism.

"My view is, capitalism works. Free enterprise works," Romney said.

"I find it, kind of, strange, on a stage like this with Republicans, having to describe how private equity and venture capital work and how they're successful and how they create jobs," he added.

The candidate said he was "very proud" of the work he did at Bain, and "the fact that throughout my career I have worked to try to build enterprises."

"Theres nothing wrong with profit, by the way," he added. "I'm someone who believes in free enterprise. I think Adam Smith was right. And I'm going to stand and defend capitalism across this country, throughout this campaign. I know we're going to get hit hard from President Obama, but we're going to stuff it down his throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong."

It hard to say definitively how many jobs Bain is responsible for creating or laying off because of the nature of the company, but Romney's campaign has cited hiring growth in three major companies - Staples, The Sports Authority, and Domino's - as the backup for the 120,000 jobs allegedly created.