LACONIA, N.H. — His credibility under attack, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney labored to rebut President Barack Obama and other critics Friday as questions multiplied over the timing of his departure from a private equity firm more than a decade ago.
Obama said the inconsistencies, raised in several media reports and highlighted by his own campaign aides, were a legitimate part of the race for the White House.
“Ultimately, I think, Mr. Romney is going to have to answer those questions because if he aspires to being president, one of the things you learn is you’re ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations,” the president said in an interview with WJLA-TV in Virginia as he campaigned across the battleground state.
Hours earlier, Romney hastily arranged interviews with several television networks in hopes of preventing any damage to his presidential bid. One aide said earlier in the week that any suggestion that Romney had shipped jobs overseas was a lie, and the campaign has said repeatedly the break with the private equity firm came in 1999.
Yet documents surfaced for the second straight day that seemed to indicate Romney played an active management role in Bain Capital after that date, when he said he and company officials said he left the firm to become head of the Olympic games in Salt Lake City.
Beyond raising questions about Romney’s truthfulness, the discrepancy in dates may be important because of accusations that Bain invested in companies that outsourced jobs overseas after 1999.
That, in turn, goes to the core issue of the race for the White House in dreary economic times, Romney’s claim that as a former businessman, he has the ability to create jobs and finally pull the country out of a downturn that has lingered throughout Obama’s term.
Obama spent much of his day challenging Romney over taxes and spending, telling one audience that if Republicans are unwilling to let tax cuts lapse for the wealthiest Americans, they’re “not serious” about reducing the deficit.
Appearing in Hampton Roads, Va., Obama renewed calls to extend Bush-era tax breaks for those earning $250,000 or less while the two sides argue about higher earners, affecting the top 2 percent of Americans. But he charged Republicans with balking, and holding middle-class cuts “hostage.”
“If 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,” Obama said at a campaign rally. He said lawmakers should “go ahead and help middle-class families right now. And so far, I have not gotten an OK from the other side on that. And that tells me I guess they’re not that serious about deficit reduction.”
Romney and other Republicans argue that raising taxes on anyone would be a mistake given the fragile state of the recovery.