President Obama speaks during a campaign rally at Hillsborough Community… (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)
TAMPA – President Obama ripped rival Mitt Romney for his association with companies that outsourced jobs overseas, saying we "don't need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office."
Obama was a picking up on a Washington Post story published Friday that highlighted investments by Bain Capital during Romney's tenure leading the private equity firm. The Post reported that Bain invested in companies that were in the vanguard of the outsourcing trend.
"Today it was reported in the Washington Post that the companies his firm owned were 'pioneers' in the outsourcing of American jobs to places like China and India. Pioneers!" the president told a worked-up crowd at a community college in Florida on Friday. "Let me tell you, Tampa, we don't need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office. We need a president who will fight for American jobs and American manufacturing. And that's what my plan will do."
The Post report triggered a full-court offensive from Obama's reelection campaign, which began within hours of its appearance online and continued with the president's comments Friday afternoon.
The Obama campaign has been working methodically over the past several months to build a case against Romney that is rooted in his time at Bain. The goal, campaign officials say, is to first create doubt in voters' mind about his values, and then explain how those "Bain values" carried into his tenure in Massachusetts.
David Axelrod, the senior campaign strategist, told reporters earlier Friday that the Post story was a "significant moment in the campaign" and makes clear the choice for voters: "Do they want an outsourcer in chief in the Oval Office or do they want a president that's going to fight for American jobs?"
"When you offer your experience in business as a road map for how you would govern, which is what he's done ... then people are going to examine exactly what it is that you did," he added. "And it's particularly egregious when you try to repackage yourself as someone who's going to be tough on the countries you sent jobs to."
The Romney campaign called the Post report "fundamentally flawed," though in responding the campaign sought to draw a distinction between “outsourcing” and "offshoring." The Obama campaign said neither description would appeal to voters.
Responding to Obama's remarks, spokesman Ryan Williams said the president was using "false and discredited attacks to distract from his failed economic policies and abysmal jobs record."
"If President Obama had even half of Mitt Romney’s record on jobs, he'd be running for reelection on it. But President Obama has the worst economic record of any president in modern history, and he is desperate to distract from his shameful legacy of higher taxes, skyrocketing deficits and less jobs," Williams said.
Obama's public rally was among his first since his campaign launched in early May. The president stuck to familiar themes – tearing into Republicans' tax policies and deficit reduction plans. But in a button-down, high-energy atmosphere, away from the restrictions of an official event, Obama loosened up and showed a sharper edge.
He gave the crowd the chance to boo Republican plans and cheered his own. He mocked Romney's claims of experience, saying the GOP nominee promotes himself as "some sort of financial wizard." And he dismissed Romney's economic proposals as similar "to the last administration, except on steroids."
Obama warned his supporters about the ad that Republican groups would run against him. They'll be full of scary voices and "pictures of me looking all old and broke down," he joked.
"That may be their plan to win an election, but it's not a plan to grow jobs," he said.
Hennessey reported from Tampa and Memoli from Washington.