GLEN ALLEN, Virginia (AP) — An unrelenting President Barack Obama jabbed at Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s record with a private equity firm in an ad Saturday that aimed to keep his rival on the defensive just as the Republican challenger’s campaign hoped to take advantage of poor economic data to gain an edge on the incumbent.
Obama met Romney’s plea for an apology for the attacks with a mocking ad that charged that the firm Romney founded shipped American jobs to China and Mexico, that Romney has personal wealth in investments in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, and that as Massachusetts governor, he sent state jobs to India.
“Mitt Romney’s not the solution. He’s the problem,” the ad says as Romney is heard singing “America the Beautiful” at a campaign appearance.
At stake is Romney’s chief contention that as a former businessman, he has the experience to create jobs and spur a struggling economy. The Obama campaign has countered that Romney ran a firm that pioneered the practice of sending American jobs out of the country and that his background is one of an investor rather than a job creator.
WATCH THE SCATHING NEW AD BELOW:
For three months, the U.S. economy by most measures has faltered. Yet the White House contest has remained locked in place, with Obama holding on to a slight national lead or in a virtual tie with his rival.
Pressure was also building on Romney from within his own party to be more forthcoming with his finances, a day after he declared that he would not release past income tax returns beyond his 2010 tax records and, before the November election, his 2011 taxes
On the sidelines of the National Governors Association meeting in Williamsburg, Alabama’s Republican governor, Robert Bentley, called on Romney to release all the documents requested of him.
“If you have things to hide, then maybe you’re doing things wrong,” Bentley said. “I think you ought to be willing to release everything to the American people.”
A soaked Obama, campaigning in a downpour in closely contested Virginia, hewed to his middle class-centered pitch in remarks in the district represented by one of his top Republican nemeses, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He attacked Romney and his Republican allies for pursuing what the president branded as outdated and discredited economic policies.
Obama spoke to about 900 people in Glen Allen, arriving in a downpour. He eschewed a rain jacket or umbrella and apologized to the women for their ruined hairdos.
“We’re gonna have to treat everybody to a salon visit after this” he quipped.
Obama didn’t dwell on Romney’s business record, leaving the sharpest attacks to his campaign and the new television commercial. Still he played up the charge that Romney and the private equity firm he founded in 1984, Bain Capital, sent jobs overseas.
“He invested in companies that have been called pioneers of outsourcing,” the president said, his shirt drenched and water streaming down his face. “I don’t want pioneers in outsourcing, I want some insourcing. I want to bring companies back.”
While Obama hammered Romney for a second consecutive day in Virginia, Romney spent time with his family in New Hampshire. The candidate, taking a weekend off from public events, spent the morning at his lake house, working on his iPad on the lawn while his grandchildren played nearby. His last public event was Wednesday and he didn’t plan other public campaign appearances until Tuesday.
Ever disciplined, Romney has kept his campaign message exclusively on economic themes, casting the election as a referendum on Obama’s economic stewardship.
Romney aides began the week drumming Obama on stubbornly high unemployment which remains above 8 percent but watched their upper hand fade. Romney’s advisers said Saturday they would keep their plan and not be distracted by Obama’s criticism. Romney aides declined to weigh in on Obama’s latest criticism and pointed to Romney’s television interviews on Friday.
The intensifying attacks on Romney’s business record and the calls for greater openness came amid stepped up attention to discrepancies between Securities and Exchange Commission filings and Romney’s recollection of his role at Boston-based Bain Capital.
.Romney insists that he stepped down from his private equity firm years earlier than federal records indicate.