HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- President Obama attacked Mitt Romney’s business record just after their second presidential debate began Tuesday night, dropping the nonconfrontational approach that left many of Obama’s supporters disappointed when the rivals for the White House first debated nearly two weeks ago.
Obama’s attack focused on Romney’s tenure at the helm of Bain Capital, a Boston private equity firm that he founded.
When Romney touted his five-point plan to create 12 million jobs in four years, Obama ridiculed the Republican challenger’s agenda, calling it a one-point plan “to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.”
“That’s been his philosophy in the private sector; that’s been his philosophy as governor; that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate,” Obama said shortly after the feisty debate at Hofstra University began. “You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money.”
Obama’s campaign has run television ads casting Romney as a corporate takeover executive who reaped millions of dollars on deals that shipped American jobs overseas. Priorities USA Action, a “super PAC” that supports Obama, has run a series of television ads focused on Bain deals that led to thousands of layoffs, featuring workers who lost their jobs telling their personal stories.
Political strategists see that advertising -- and Romney’s decision to run no ads challenging what it said -- as a significant factor in Obama gaining an early edge in some of the battleground states, particularly in Ohio. But in the first debate, Romney’s business record was one of many lines of criticism that Obama did not pursue, letting down Democrats who believed he should have been more aggressive.
Romney has on occasion trumpeted the thousands of jobs created in more successful Bain deals, with companies such as the Staples office supplies chain. But he has not made those deals a central part of his advertising. In the first half of the debate at Hofstra, Romney did not respond to Obama’s allegations.