Biden Speech Part Of Coordinated Attack On Romney

With a speech in Ohio Wednesday, Vice President Biden kept up the drum beat criticizing Mitt Romney for his work as a venture capitalist. The GOP presidential hopeful casts his business experience as a prime asset.

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The Obama campaign has launched a coordinated attack on Mitt Romney's business record. Romney's success in the business world has been his main selling point in the White House race. President Obama and his allies are trying to undermine that, arguing that Romney made at least some of his fortune at the expense of American workers. The latest salvo came yesterday in a speech from Vice President Joe Biden. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Vice President Biden says since Mitt Romney's staked his campaign on his successful investing career, it's only fair to consider some of his investments that didn't work out so well - at least not for the workers at the companies he acquired. In Youngstown, Ohio yesterday, Biden told the story of a century-old Kansas City steel mill that Romney's firm Bain Capital bought in the early 1990s.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It had been in business since 1888, when Romney and his partners bought that company. Eight years later that company was in bankruptcy.

HORSLEY: By that time Romney had left Bain to oversee the Olympics. But he continued to share in the company's profits, even though 750 steelworkers ended up losing their jobs.

BIDEN: Romney made sure the guys on top got to play by a separate set of rules. He ran up massive debts and the middle class lost. And folks, he thinks that experience is going to help our economy.

HORSLEY: Biden's speech is part of a coordinated campaign. At news conferences this week in Ohio and Florida, Democrats pointed to other instances in which Romney's firm made money, even though the companies it acquired failed, and workers lost jobs. That's also the message behind a new TV ad from a pro-Obama superPAC. The commercial features a steelworker named Pat Wells from that shuttered plant in Kansas City.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

PAT WELLS: Whether the companies they came in and worked with made money or not was irrelevant. Bain Capital always made money. If we lost, they made money. If we survived, they made money. It's as simple as that.

HORSLEY: Romney's faced similar attacks before, from his Republican primary opponents earlier this year and in his first Senate race against Ted Kennedy almost two decades ago. The attacks are designed to turn Romney's business success from an asset into a liability. At a campaign rally earlier this month, President Obama himself suggested there's something wrong with Romney's bottom line.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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 our economy.

HORSLEY: According to the Los Angeles Times, four of the top 10 companies that Bain Capital invested in while Romney was in charge ultimately went bankrupt, though Bain still made a profit on three of them. Romney spokesman Ryan Williams says that's the nature of free enterprise.

RYAN WILLIAMS: As somebody who spent his life in the private sector, he understands that there are successes and failures. And he obviously learned from both his successes and failures in the private sector.

HORSLEY: Romney appeared on a conservative podcast yesterday and repeated the claim that overall his investment firm helped companies add jobs. He ducked questions about the vice president's speech from the traveling press, though. Spokesman Williams says that's deliberate.

WILLIAMS: This election is a referendum on the incumbent president and his administration, and we intend to keep the focus on that issue.

HORSLEY: For its part, the Obama campaign is determined to widen that focus, to include Romney's record as well.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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