AIKEN, S.C. – After a sustained attack from his rivals for his work in corporate mergers and takeovers at Bain Capital, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney tried to put a softer focus on his work at the private equity firm.
The Romney campaign released a television ad in South Carolina on Friday morning trumpeting Bain’s record of job creation while Romney was at the helm in the 1980s and 1990s. And on the stump, Romney described his efforts to create jobs.
“A lot of people want to talk about how we create jobs. By the way, it’s not to walk away from free enterprise,” Romney said at a campaign rally, where he appeared with Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. “It is not to say that there’s something wrong with the free market system. No, instead it’s to hold fast to that system and make it work for the American people.”
Romney, who regularly includes in his campaign speeches his ideas for helping the shrinking American middle class, also made reference to the government’s responsibility to help people below the poverty line. “I’m concerned about our poor in this country. We have to make sure that the safety net for our poor is always strong and always able to help those that can’t help themselves,” he said. “I’m not terribly worried about the very wealthiest in our society, they’re doing just fine.”
Romney’s rivals, particularly former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have portrayed him as a wealthy elitist and cold venture capitalist who made millions of dollars at Bain by gutting companies and downsizing people out of jobs. The attacks threaten to hurt Romney as he attempts to win in South Carolina, a state with a nearly 10 percent unemployment rate.
“If you’ve been out of work for a long period of time, you know these numbers are not just statistics,” Romney said, blaming the Obama administration for the economic misery. “These numbers are real people, and real suffering. And he’s going to say the economy is getting better. Thank heavens it’s getting better! It’s getting better not because of him, it’s in spite of him and what he’s done.”