CINCINNATI – Using unusually vivid language, Mitt Romney tried to take the political offensive against President Barack Obama on Monday, accusing Obama of cronyism that “stinks” in steering federal contracts to supporters. He also dropped hints through a spokesman that a vice presidential pick could come any day.
Unfazed, Obama needled his Republican rival for finally having a job-creation plan – for people overseas.
At the same time, though Romney endeavored to switch the campaign focus, questions about his tenure at Bain Capital, a venture capital company, seemed destined to shape the conversation at least a while longer. On a day devoted mainly to raising money, Romney went on Fox News to complain that all Obama can do “is attack me” on Bain and other subjects rather than taking useful steps to improve the economy.
Sure enough, the Democratic incumbent showed no sign of letting up.
Rallying for support in crucial Ohio, Obama said Romney’s proposal to free companies from taxes on their foreign holdings would displace American workers. The president cited a study he said concluded that “Gov. Romney’s economic plan would in fact create 800,000 jobs. There’s only one problem, the jobs wouldn’t be in America.”
Romney’s campaign, itself moving to the attack, contended that Obama’s Energy Department has steered loans and grants to several companies connected to the president’s political supporters.
Romney, speaking to donors in Baton Rouge, La., said Obama had a policy of “taking your tax dollars and putting it in businesses owned by contributors to his campaign. And that is smelly at best. It stinks.”
Romney aides cited some well-known cases, such as Solyndra, a California solar energy company that went bankrupt, and some less-publicized cases. They include Westly Group, a venture capital firm whose affiliated companies have received federal loans and grants.
Steve Westly, the company’s founder, is a major Obama campaign fundraiser.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Energy Department’s decisions “were made without regard to political connections.” She said some grants have gone to projects with “just as robust connections to Republican campaigns and donors.”
While Obama held a freewheeling town hall in Ohio, Romney raised money in the safely GOP states of Louisiana and Mississippi.
He told donors who paid as much as $50,000 to attend a Jackson, Miss., fundraiser that it was a good time to be a friend of the Obama campaign, but not a good time to be in the middle class.
“I know that people in this room are probably doing relatively well, relative to folks across this country. But not everyone in America is doing so well right now,” he said. “The waiters and waitresses that come in and out of this room and offer us refreshments – they’re not having a good year.”
Romney, who struggled during the GOP primary to explain his suggestion that he doesn’t care about the nation’s very poor, spoke directly to the poor Monday.
“We’re the party of people who want to get rich,” he said. “And we’re also the party of people who want to care to help people from getting poor. We want to help the poor.”
Addressing another major election point of interest, top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told the Associated Press that the campaign may announce a vice presidential choice by the end of the week.