How Romney is fighting harsh charge he's a heartless job-killer

Two new pro-Obama ads are hammering Romney's former firm, Bain Capital, for the demise of a Missouri steel company. The counter-ad from the Romney camp focuses on a firm that Bain bolstered.

Carlos Osorio/AP
In this May 8 photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in Lansing, Mich.

President Obama’s supporters are doubling down on their attempt to portray Mitt Romney as a heartless job-destroying financier.

On Monday, the Obama campaign released an ad accusing Mr. Romney’s former firm Bain Capital of sucking cash out of a Missouri company named GST Steel, driving it into bankruptcy. Tuesday, a pro-Obama super political-action committee, Priorities USA Action, is releasing an ad that focuses on Bain’s ownership of (surprise!) GST Steel, which closed in 2001, throwing more than 700 people out of work.

“He promised us the same things he’s promising the United States. And he’ll give you the same thing he gave us. Nothing. He’ll take it all,” says a former GST worker named Pat Wells in the Priorities USA spot.

Yikes – that’s harsh, isn’t it? For the record, we’ll note that super PACs aren’t supposed to coordinate with candidates, though they can watch the news like everybody else and follow a campaign’s lead if they wish. Also, by the time that GST went under, Romney was long gone from Bain. He’d left to run the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics.

Steel firms such as GST faced tough competition from imports during the period in question. Still, Bain did raise the company’s debt load, while extracting at least $12 million for itself. Overall, the Washington Post Fact Checker column gives the Obama campaign ad a rating of “One Pinocchio,” meaning that it shades the truth, and omits some facts while exaggerating others, but contains no outright falsehoods.

So how is Romney responding? First, his campaign is accentuating the positive. They’ve already released their own counter-ad – a spot that features a thriving Indiana firm named Steel Dynamics in which Bain had a minority stake.

Steel Dynamics "almost never got started,” says one worker in the ad. “When others shied away, Mitt Romney’s private sector leadership team stepped in.”

Second, Romney supporters are hammering at the fact that one of the Obama campaign’s top financial backers, Jonathan Lavine, is a Bain director who was at the firm when GST went under.

“So according to the Obama team’s logic, Romney, who had left Bain, is responsible for GST Steel’s demise, but Lavine, who was there, is not? Expect to hear more about this connection,” wrote Robert Costa yesterday on the National Review Online blog The Corner.

Finally, the Romney camp may point out that Mr. Obama is himself responsible for layoffs. Remember the auto bailout? General Motors and Chrysler shut down more than 700 dealerships during that crisis period, at the cost of thousands of jobs.

“And the companies did it under pressure from Obama,” writes conservative Byron York, the Washington Examiner’s chief political correspondent.

Hmmm. We’re not so sure that invoking the auto bailout is a big winner for Romney – GM and Chrysler remain alive, after all, which was the point at the time. In any case, the Obama team insists that is a discussion about the presumptive GOP nominee, not their guy.  

“The central premise of [Romney’s] campaign is that his business experience will make him a good president. So let’s look at what kind of president it would make Mitt Romney. That’s a legitimate question,” said Stephanie Cutter, Obama deputy campaign manager, in an appearance Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”

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