Obama, Romney Trade Barbs Over Bain Capital

While the presidential campaigns traded attack ads on Friday, President Obama was on the road in Virginia. The state is a prime target for both candidates.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. It's Friday, and we'll begin the hour with the week in politics. The presidential campaigns are trading barbs over Republican Mitt Romney's role at his private equity firm Bain Capital. Specifically, when did he stop managing the company? SEC filings appear to contradict Romney's claim that he ended his active management role in 1999, when he left to run the Salt Lake City Olympics.

For the Obama campaign, it's an opportunity to try to sully Romney's business record, and to attack him for a lack of transparency regarding his personal finances. Romney's camp has fired back, arguing that the president is simply trying to distract voters from a lackluster economy. We'll talk with our political commentators about this latest dust-up after a report from NPR's Scott Horsley. He's riding along on President Obama's two-day campaign tour of Virginia.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama didn't utter the name Bain Capital when he campaigned today in Virginia Beach - though he has said in the past, Mitt Romney's business background is fair game since that's what the Republican challenger sites as his main qualification for the White House. Today, Mr. Obama tried to present himself as standing above the political mudslinging; instead, focusing on pocketbook issues like taxes and health insurance.

At a high school in a heavily African-American neighborhood, the president renewed his call to extend Bush-era tax cuts for families making less than a quarter-million dollars a year.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now is not the time to raise taxes on the middle class. The economy is still fragile. We're still digging ourselves out of this hole. So let's provide certainty to 98 percent of Americans.

HORSLEY: Republicans want to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, too; a move that Mr. Obama says would add to the government's red ink without doing much to boost the economy.

OBAMA: You say you want to bring down the deficit, but you're not willing to let tax cuts lapse for the top 2 percent. It tells me you're not serious about deficit reduction.

HORSLEY: The president also defended his signature health-care plan, which Romney criticized this week in a speech to the NAACP. Virginia Beach business owner Damian May (ph) watched that speech, and says he was puzzled by Romney's opposition to the health-care plan. As a taxpayer, May says he wants to see more people covered by health insurance.

DAMIAN MAY: Who pays for it when you go to the hospital, and you don't have insurance? We still pay for it. I want you to be able to pay for it 'cause I don't want to pay for it.

HORSLEY: Romney himself used to make a similar argument. Today, he argues the health-care law is discouraging employers from hiring workers, and he's promised a full repeal.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Virginia Beach.

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