WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama opened a new advertising assault on challenger Mitt Romney’s record as a businessman — his primary strength with an American electorate still deeply worried about the economy — casting the likely Republican nominee as a greedy entrepreneur who bought up companies and wiped out jobs.
The unusually long 2-minute ad began appearing Monday in five U.S. states that have a history of voting for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. It uses interviews with former workers to recount the restructuring and ultimate demise of a Missouri steel mill after it was bought by Romney’s investment company. Romney still maintains a financial interest in the company.
“They made as much money off of it as they could. And they closed it down,” says Joe Soptic, a steelworker for 30 years. Jack Cobb adds: “It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us.”
WATCH: New Obama campaign ad hits Romney on jobs:
The attack on Romney intensifies a separate $25 million, monthlong ad campaign already under way in nine states.
Obama opens business Monday with a commencement address at Barnard College in New York City before heading to two campaign events later in the day. In the course of a week of global economic and military diplomacy — the G8 and NATO summits — Obama also holds campaign events in Florida, Missouri, Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina, where he will focus on Romney’s role at Bain Capital, a company he co-founded.
Vice President Joe Biden was holding two days of events in Ohio, where he was expected to discuss Romney’s role as a corporate buyout specialist.
The Romney campaign did not comment on the ad early Monday. The former Massachusetts governor was spending the day in Boston, with no public events scheduled, after delivering a commencement speech at an evangelical university in Virginia on Saturday.
Romney has accused Obama of attacking free enterprise and calls the criticism of his business background an attempt by Democrats to distract voters from the president’s record.
Both candidates are trying to shift the focus back to voters’ No. 1 issue, the economy, from social issues that dominated the past week after the president announced his support for gay marriage.
The two campaigns contend that in a nation where unemployment is hovering around 8 percent, voters will choose between Obama and Romney based on economic arguments. Obama is trying to convince voters to stick with him as he heralds an economic rebound, as sluggish as it is. Romney counters that Obama has had enough time, and only he — with his deep background in business — knows how to jumpstart the nation’s job market.
Obama, hosting his first campaign rally earlier this month in Ohio, gave a preview of the new line of attack, saying Romney had “drawn the wrong lessons” from his business experience at the helm of Bain.
“He doesn’t seem to understand that maximizing profits by whatever means necessary — whether through layoffs or outsourcing or tax avoidance or union-busting — might not always be good for the average American or for the American economy,” Obama said.
Romney, a multimillionaire, left Bain in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympic Games but continued to receive payouts from the company’s profits. He has said that his firm had a strong overall record, creating jobs in prominent companies like Staples and Sports Authority, while acknowledging that some companies Bain invested in were unsuccessful.
Obama’s new ad, which reprises criticism leveled at Romney during the Republican primaries, focuses on one of those unsuccessful companies, GST Steel.
Bain was the majority shareholder in GST Steel beginning in 1993. The company eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2001, a period in which the U.S. steel industry was roiled by a flood of cheap steel imports. About 750 workers lost their jobs and were left without health insurance and reduced pensions. The federal government was forced to infuse $44 million into the company’s underfunded pension plan.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.