Mitt Romney delivers the keynote address Saturday at Liberty University’s commencement in Lynchburg, Va. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.
President Obama is out Monday with a harsh new attack on presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a multi-platform push that outlines what his re-election team says is Romney’s “business philosophy and what it would mean for the American economy.”
The Obama campaign calls the television ad and accompanying website — reminiscent of the pro-Newt Gingrich Winning our Future super PAC’s “King of Bain” series — a “breakdown of the questionable business practices used by Mitt Romney and his partners.”
A two-minute TV ad features former steelworkers from the GST plant in Kansas City taken over by Bain Capital, where Romney was an executive, and a union negotiator who says Romney was “deeply involved” in the pension cuts to longtime workers and ultimately the plant’s closure.
The documentary-style ad, which is running in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia, highlights two quotes from Romney on the campaign trail: “I know why jobs come and why they go” and “As I look around at the millions of Americans without work, it breaks my heart.”
Joe Soptic, one of the steelworkers, says watching the plant close “was like watching an old friend bleed to death.”
“Those guys were all rich, they all had more money than they will ever spend yet they didn’t have the money to take care of the very people that made the money for them,” he says.
Another worker, John Wiseman says: “Bain Capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off of this plant. We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.”
Jack Cobb lays it on even thicker, saying to the camera, “To get up on national TV and brag about making jobs when he has destroyed thousands of people’s careers, lifetimes, just destroying people.”
The ad closes with another Romney slam from Soptic:
“He’s running for president and if he’s going to run the country the way he ran our business, I wouldn’t want him there. He would be so out of touch with the average person in this country…How could you care for the average working person if you feel that way?”
Watch the ad here or below:
The Obama campaign did not disclose the size of the ad buy, but the push comes along with a six-minute web video (Watch that here) and a new site featuring articles on Bain’s record. The campaign will also hold a conference call Monday with Soptic.
The message the campaign hopes voters take away? “Romney believes in two sets of rules — one for people like him, another for everyone else.”
The attack on Romney’s business record comes as polls show the former Massachusetts governor with an edge over the president on the economy. In a USA Today/Gallup survey released last week, 61 percent of registered voters said they thought Romney would do a very good or good job of handling the economy, compared with 52 percent who said the same of Mr. Obama.
When asked to pick between the two on the economic metric, 47 percent of voters chose Romney, while 45 percent named the president.
Romney relied on his private sector experience throughout the campaign to make the case that he was the best Republican candidate to take on the president this fall. The argument withstood attacks from GOP primary rivals such as Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who referred to Romney as a “vulture capitalist.”
The president’s team is hoping that the attacks will be more effective under the spotlight of a general election campaign.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul issued a long statement responding to the ad.
“We welcome the Obama campaign’s attempt to pivot back to jobs and a discussion of their failed record. Mitt Romney helped create more jobs in his private sector experience and more jobs as Governor of Massachusetts than President Obama has for the entire nation,” she said. “President Obama has many questions to answer as to why his administration used the stimulus to reward wealthy campaign donors with taxpayer money for bad ideas like Solyndra, but 23 million Americans are still struggling to find jobs. If the Obama administration was less concerned about pleasing their wealthy donors and more concerned about creating jobs, America would be much better off.”
COURTING CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES
Romney gave a pivotal address Saturday at Liberty University’s graduation about the common ground that he shares with conservative Christian voters.
The speech wasn’t as overtly religious for Romney as his 2007 address on his Mormon faith. Still, it marked an important moment in this year’s campaign, as Romney launched his appeal to socially conservative voters who may have previously supported former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The speech’s location, at the world’s largest Christian university in the heart of swing-state Virginia, held further significance as an evangelical stronghold welcoming Romney.
During the graduation ceremony, Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. presented Romney with a chair inscribed with the words, “There’s always a seat for you at our table.” Falwell Jr. inherited the university’s leadership position after the death of his father, school founder and televangelist Jerry Falwell. The senior Falwell had received from Romney a similar chair years ago.
Falwell Jr. urged the audience Saturday to set aside its religious differences with Romney and vote for the candidates whose positions are closest to theirs. Christian voters should trust Romney’s decency, judgement and moral character, Falwell said.
Indeed, Romney asserted that his beliefs matched those of the Christian right. During the speech, his largest applause came after he delivered the line, “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”
Politico reported after the speech that evangelical Christians received the address well and felt they could connect with Romney morally. We attended the speech in Lynchburg, Va., and heard similar reactions from attendees.
The day before, first lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., gave speeches at the graduation ceremony for Virginia Tech, about 100 miles west of Lynchburg.
Mrs. Obama stayed away from all political references and instead focused on encouraging the students to stay committed to service, community and to have pride in their school.
Warner, however, gave a speech that focused on encouraging graduates to engage civilly in politics.
“Disagreement and rigorous debate about the big issues of the day and the challenges we face is both healthy and proper,” he said.” But we should be able to debate these critical issues without questioning each other’s motives or our shared commitment to America’s success. No one in politics — and I mean no one — has a monopoly on virtue, or patriotism, or on the truth.”
RON PAUL PLAYS MR. GRACIOUS
Supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul are apoplectic over the Republican National Committee’s formal embrace of Romney as the party’s ultimate nominee. Petitions are circulating on Paul fan sites to oust RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
The Paul campaign stepped forward over the weekend and announced its support for Priebus.
In a statement released Sunday, Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton said the RNC moved forward with building a general election operation for Romney only after asking for “our blessing.”
Benton added: “The RNC offered to set up a joint fundraising committee with the Paul campaign and were very clear that if Dr. Paul became the nominee, the Victory Operation would be behind him 100 percent. They also were clear that they would hold off if our campaign objected. I gave my full consent for the RNC to move forward.
“Chairman Priebus has always treated Dr. Paul and our team with respect, and we appreciate his leadership. He has been an outstanding chairman and has our full confidence.”
Paul’s decision not to cause a stir for the Romney campaign and the RNC, even as he continues to pick up delegates, could help the Texas congressman score a more significant role at this summer’s convention.
VOTE 2012 MAP CENTER
Have fun with the Electoral College numbers below and explore the map center here to see state-by-state demographic data and more.
SHIELDS & BROOKS
Judy Woodruff spoke with Mark Shields and David Brooks on Friday about the president’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, Romney’s approach to gay rights, the backlash against austerity measures in Europe and more.
You can watch that here or below:
In this week’s Doubleheader, Hari Sreenivasan talks with the guys about the sport of politics and the politics of sport. Among the highlights, they apologize for their losing Kentucky Derby picks and discuss David’s visit to a Waffle House. Watch that here.
2012 LINE ITEMS
- CNN’s Jessica Yellin reports that the Obama campaign took in $2 million in the 24 hours after the president announced his support for same-sex marriage last week.
- The Obama and Romney campaigns released dueling Mother’s Day web videos.
- Romney’s best strategy may be the opposite of John McCain’s 2008 campaign, Politico writes.
- Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., refused to quash speculation that he could be Romney’s running mate.
- Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., is putting her brand new college diploma to work: She’s using it as a talking point to attack President Obama in the Republican weekly address.
- A new Republican super PAC is hoping to woo younger voters.
- A new national poll conducted by JZ Analytics for the Washington Times found Romney and Mr. Obama statistically tied at 43.6 percent to 43.2 percent. The survey “found more enthusiasm for the president’s campaign than for the GOP’s challenger,” writes the paper’s Stephen Dinan.
- The Washington Times’ Paige Winfield Cunningham talks with House Republican leaders who are are “quietly working with Mitt Romney’s campaign to fashion a unified GOP health care platform to replace President Obama’s health law.”
- Paul West of the Los Angeles Times looks at how same-sex marriage might alter the 2016 presidential race.
- NPR looks at how campaigns are working to register minority voters in Florida in a year with new regulations.
- The president scored an endorsement from actress Betty White.
- Both campaigns returned Friday to discussing the economy. Watch the NewsHour’s wrap here.
— Tagg Romney (@tromney) May 13, 2012
Plane circling Liberty U stadium before Romney’s speech: trailing banner says “GOP = higher school debt”
— Katelyn Polantz (@kpolantz) May 12, 2012
Too many emails this morning politicizing Mothers Day. #stop
— Mark Preston (@PrestonCNN) May 13, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
- Roll Call’s David Drucker and Abby Livingston write that conservative groups and the Tea Party are using Richard Mourdock’s win in Indiana as they boost Ted Cruz in Texas’ May 29 Senate primary. That race also got a look on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times.
- Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports that veteran New York Rep. Charlie Rangel is facing a tough primary challenge next month in his newly redrawn district.
- Gwen Ifill offers her take on why compromise can be hazardous to one’s political health.
- Jill Biden hosted a fundraiser for congressional candidate Christie Vilsack over the weekend, telling the donors that a glass ceiling has hung over Iowa far too long, according to a pool report. Biden said it is “long past time” for a female to represent the Hawkeye State. “Until now, the only place you could find a place a woman from Iowa serving in Congress was in the movies and that was a Billy Wilder movie released in 1948,” she said. Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is running against Republican Rep. Steve King.
- Roll Call’s Amanda Becker looks at questions raised by Louisiana Rep. Jeff Landry’s spending outside his current district but within a redrawn one where he may run.
- The Texas Tribune’s Jay Root writes about the Republican candidates battling to succeed Rep. Ron Paul in state’s 14th Congressional District.
- The Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich writes up Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s remarks to the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. The Republican was criticized for saying the president’s views on marriage “couldn’t get any gayer.”
- While quite a few Democratic Party leaders in North Carolina have lost their positions over a sexual harassment scandal, party chair David Parker will stay in charge.
- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing about the Colombian prostitution scandal on May 23 with Secret Service director Mark Sullivan and Charles Edwards, the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.
- Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and John Krasinksi are hosting a Hollywood fundraiser for Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.
- Everyone welcome Tiffany Mullon (@tiffanymullon) to Team Politics.
NewsHour reporter-producer Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
- President Obama travels to New York City, where he delivers the commencement address at Barnard College at 1:10 p.m., tapes an appearance on “The View” at 3 p.m. and attends campaign events at 5:05 p.m. and 6:50 p.m.
- Vice President Joe Biden has no public events scheduled.
- Mitt Romney has no public events scheduled.
- Ron Paul has no public events scheduled.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.