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Obama campaign criticizes Romney's 'economic values'

President Obama's re-election team argued Monday that Bain Capital cofounder Mitt Romney learned "lessons and values" during his time at the helm of the Boston-based investment firm that run counter to an economic structure that benefits the middle class.

"This is about whether the lessons and values Romney drew from his time as a buyout specialist," said deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on a conference call with reporters. "What those values are –- what they tell us about what type of president Mitt Romney would be, and whether the voters want that in the Oval Office."

In a new two minute ad, the Obama campaign argues that Romney and his Bain colleagues were responsible for the closure of a Kansas City steel plant that led to hundreds of layoffs as well as pension and retirement losses.

The Romney camp points out that the former Massachusetts governor left the firm in 1999, two years before the bankruptcy at GS Industries, and that he has taken responsibility for Bain's purchase of the plant but not its management. Team Obama counters that Romney "set in motion" the series of structural changes that led to the 2001 closure of the company.

"I do think it's absolutely on the table as an indication of Romney's values and lessons that he learned from this experience and how he would run the national economy," Cutter said.

The Obama campaign's Bain argument appeared to be somewhat undercut within hours of the new ad's rollout, when former Obama adviser and "car czar" Steven Rattner called the commercial "unfair."

"Bain Capital's responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number," said Rattner during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "It was to create profits for its investors, most of whom were pension funds and endowments and foundations. And it did it superbly well, acting within the rules, acting very responsibly, and was a leading firm."

Cutter said Monday that the president's re-election team isn't focused on the success or failure of Romney's firm, but rather on the "values" exhibited by Bain's treatment of employees of the companies it managed.

"Bain was, and continues to be, a very prominent firm that does very well; it does very well by its investors," Cutter said.

"At the end of the day, this isn't about private equity," she said. "Romney says there are winners and losers. Absolutely. But at the end of the day Mitt Romney and his partners always won and somebody else was always left holding the bag."

But even as Cutter insisted the campaign is not criticizing “how Romney ran his company,” the ad itself contains several direct rebukes of the former Bain executive’s stewardship of GST, rather than his overall economic philosophy.

Towards the end of the ad, former GST worker Joe Soptic explicitely condemns Romney’s job at Bain.

“If he's going to run the country the way he ran our business, I wouldn't want him there,” Soptic says as the camera pans over newspaper clippings about Bain putting “profits first” under Romney. 

“We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer,” says another former employee, John Wiseman -– another suggestion by the campaign that Romney’s job at Bain and his “economic values” are intertwined.