WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama’s camp unleashed a fierce assault on his Republican foe Mitt Romney Monday, slamming the former venture capitalist as a “vampire” who got rich by bleeding dry ailing firms.
A new campaign ad, relating the way Romney’s firm Bain Capital took over and ultimately closed a steel plant in Kansas City, Missouri, features emotive testimony from workers who blamed the Republican for the loss of their jobs.
The assault marked a key moment in the campaign ahead of November’s election, as Obama seeks to shred Romney’s main argument that his business background qualifies him to revive the US economy.
“Since Romney’s central premise is that he’s an economic wizard who can grow the economy — it’s worth examining what that wizardry is all about,” said Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager.
“Mitt Romney’s business experience wasn’t about growing companies and creating jobs and long-term economic growth.
“In deal after deal, Romney’s first priority was to make a personal profit, regardless of the cost to others.”
The ad, which will air in battleground states Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia, features the story of several steelworkers who lost their jobs, pension benefits and health care coverage in the plant’s closure.
“Bain Capital walked away with a lot of money made off this plant. We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer,” said John Wiseman, a steel worker who lost his job when GST Steel closed.
Jack Cobb, who was a steelworker for 31 years, added of Bain’s purchase of their firm: “It was like a vampire, it came in and sucked the life out of us.”
The ad juxtaposes clips of Romney saying that he cares about jobs and the unemployed with the testimony of steelworkers thrown out of work when Bain Capital finally closed down their firm in 2001 with the loss of 750 jobs.
“It was like watching an old friend bleed to death,” said steelworker Joe Soptic, in the ad, relating the moment the last steel was made in the plant.
Romney’s campaign hit back at the president’s economic record, which the former Massachusetts governor wants to make the central point of the campaign ahead of the election.
“We welcome the Obama campaign’s attempt to pivot back to jobs and a discussion of their failed record,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
Saul accused Obama of using an $800 billion stimulus plan passed in 2009 to reward campaign donors with taxpayer funds, mentioning specifically the Solyndra solar power firm which went bankrupt after getting a half-a-million dollar loan guarantee.
“If the Obama administration was less concerned with pleasing its wealthy donors and more concerned with creating jobs, America would be much better off,” Saul said.
Romney says that his experience as a venture capitalist responsible for building brands like the Staples office supplies store, have given him a unique understanding of the economy.
But Obama’s campaign sees Romney’s past as a perfect match for the president’s narrative that a greed-laced rampage by Wall Street firms deprived the middle class of a “fair shake” at the American Dream.