President Obama and Democrats on Friday opened a new and potentially damaging line of attack on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, claiming that he invested in firms specializing in outsourcing American jobs overseas during the years he ran the private-equity firm Bain Capital.
Leading Democrats around the country and their union allies seized on a Washington Post story, published Friday morning, that said Bain invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India. During the nearly 15 years that Romney ran Bain, a firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, the newspaper reported, citing filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it examined.
Obama strategist David Axelrod dubbed Romney the “outsourcer-in-chief,” and Obama himself weighed in Friday afternoon. "Let me tell you, Tampa, we do not need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office. We need a president who will fight for American jobs and fight for American manufacturing," Obama said at a community college. "That’s what my plan will do."
The Romney campaign responded with a statement from spokeswoman Andrea Saul calling the Post story “fundamentally flawed” and saying it “failed to differentiate between domestic outsourcing versus offshoring, nor versus work done overseas to support U.S. exports.” She added, “Mitt Romney spent 25 years in the real world economy so he understands why jobs come and they go. As president, he will implement policies that make it easier and more attractive for companies to create jobs here at home.”
But if Friday’s outpouring of criticism from Democrats is any clue, the presumptive nominee will confront the outsourcing issue on the campaign trail, especially in important battleground states in the Rust Belt. Romney is aggressively courting white blue-collar workers, who hold the key to critical states like Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan and have been hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs. They have been cool to a second Obama term, according to recent polls, but they may also be wary of Romney if he becomes associated with outsourcing, even though many economists argue that globalization made outsourcing inevitable.
“Bain Capital’s record of outsourcing jobs may have been a sweetheart arrangement for Mitt Romney, but for middle-class Americans who saw their jobs moved overseas to increase Mitt’s profit margins, it was a raw deal,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky said in a statement. “Mitt Romney’s hypocrisy on the issue of jobs is breathtaking.”
Labor leaders, including AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, took up the theme at an afternoon press conference in Washington. “On the campaign trail he says he’ll protect American jobs, but it turns out that Mitt Romney was one of the founding fathers of outsourcing American jobs – all the while raking in millions for himself,” said the union-backed Americans United for Change.
But GOP strategist Ron Bonjean said that the practice of outsourcing doesn’t have the same shock value it did in the 1990s, and Obama has more to worry about among blue-collar voters. “Obama is losing that voting bloc, so it’s highly unlikely they’re going to jump from Romney because of this,” he said. “They may not be thrilled with this story but the economy is so bad, they may just very well vote for Romney to give him a shot at trying something else."