Democrats and the White House defended attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital on Tuesday, calling them “fair game” and dismissing party infighting over the issue.
Senior administration officials said President Barack Obama’s campaign will continue to attack Romney’s record at the private equity company as well as his record as governor of Massachusetts as part of a larger narrative aimed at middle-class voters.
And several Senate Democrats echoed the attacks Tuesday, charging that the style of capitalism espoused by Romney helped investors at the expense of workers for decades.
“His business was to get rid of workers,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg said.
The New Jersey Democrat also took Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) to task for calling the attacks “nauseating” on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Those comments prompted Republicans to gleefully launch the “I Stand With Cory” campaign, much to Booker’s and the Obama campaign’s chagrin.
Lautenberg said Booker, whom some expect to run for Lautenberg’s seat in 2014, had hurt the president.
“It’s a terrible blow, in my view, for President Obama,” he said. He likened the remark to “sabotage” and said Booker needs to do more to rectify his mistake.
Booker has tried several times since Sunday to walk back the remarks. On “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Monday night, he expressed anger at Republicans who have turned his statement into campaign fodder.
As for a possible primary run against Booker in 2014, Lautenberg said “he’s welcome to do it” but that his remarks did him great damage.
“Now we have a different record,” said a smiling Lautenberg, who is considering seeking another term.
He also accused Booker of not spending enough time in Newark.
“Newark needs hands-on kind of leadership, and it’s not getting the attention,” he said. Booker’s “out of town a lot” giving speeches.
Lautenberg noted his own role co-founding Automatic Data Processing Inc., which has more than 50,000 employees: “I spent my time in business creating jobs. Romney spent his time eliminating them.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley said Romney’s Bain experience shows he doesn’t have the experience needed to help the middle class.
“It’s certainly relevant,” the Oregon Democrat said. Merkley said that productivity gains have been flowing to investors and the wealthy instead of workers since 1974. The reason is “the type of management Romney represents,” he said.
The attacks, however, have made some Democrats queasy — not just Booker. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told BuzzFeed that the Obama campaign ads were “very disappointing.” The campaign has produced a series of ads in which workers who lost their jobs after Bain took over their companies blame Romney for their plights.
Sen. Mark Warner was circumspect in an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown,” calling Romney’s Bain experience a “valid topic of debate” even as he defended the company as “very successful.” The Virginia Democrat, who made millions as an investor, said he learned in making the transition to government that it requires a “different skill set.”
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