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Amid Recent Criticism, Romney Pushes Back


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block. Mitt Romney is pushing back today against attacks on his years working at the private equity firm, Bain Capital. Right now, most of those attacks are coming from other Republicans. And the Romney campaign had not been very aggressive in responding until today. NPR's Ari Shapiro has reported extensively on the candidate's years at Bain. He's now travelling with Romney and he joins us from Greenville, South Carolina. And Ari, what is the new pushback for Mr. Romney?

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: You know, we didn't hear a lot of it in his stumps speeches in the last day or so in South Carolina, but after this morning's rally here in Greenville, he held a news conference where he pushed back again and again on this idea that he made his fortune by eliminating jobs during his years at Bain. Here's part of what he said.

MITT ROMNEY: There are some businesses that are growing and thriving and we were fortunate enough to be able to be part of that in a small way and there's some businesses that have to be cut back in order to survive and to try and make them stronger.

SHAPIRO: And Melissa, you're going to hear more of this narrative in the coming days. The Romney campaign is creating ads that are going to feature people who will say the Mitt Romney is responsible for creating their jobs and you'll also see prominent Republicans who are not formally connected with the Romney campaign speaking out, people who will say that they are defending capitalism. This was something we heard last night at a Romney rally from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

She said, we have a real problem when we have Republicans talking like Democrats against the free market. We believe in the free market, she said.

BLOCK: Ari, has the Romney campaign talked about why they waited 'til now to really take after their critics on this issue?

SHAPIRO: You know, Romney is a frontrunner and he has not wanted to wade into the fray against the people who, in most cases, are far behind him in the polls. He has always kept his sights on President Obama. And frankly, nobody really believes that these attacks will pull Romney off the path to the nomination, but there are growing fears that they could weaken him in a general election against President Obama. And also, you know, Romney had some self-inflicted wounds in the last week or so.

Over the weekend, he said he knew what it was like to worry about getting a pink slip. On Monday, he made this comment, taken out of context, that I like being able to fire people. Of course, he was talking about firing health insurance companies that charge too much or provide bad services, but they were kind of wide open doors that Romney just left for the other Republicans in the race to walk right on through.

BLOCK: Ari, when you look at the record of Bain Capital during Mitt Romney's time there, what does it show?

SHAPIRO: Well, look, Bain invested in hundreds of companies and some of them did really, really well, became household names - Staples, The Sports Authority and so on. There are also plenty of examples of companies that failed, that went bankrupt, that outsourced jobs, that laid people off. And in many of those cases, Bain made tons of money even though the workers at the bottom of the pyramid lost their jobs. Bain's goal was never job creation. Bain's goal was always to make money but job creation was one frequent outcome.

Another occasional outcome was layoffs. And so, nobody disagrees about any of that. What they disagree about is the total. Mitt Romney often says, net, net, gains, losses, you're looking at 100,000 jobs created. And you can't argue that there were lots and lots of jobs created, but there are no exact numbers and so it's really difficult to do the kind of detailed fact checking that would allow us to say, yes, Bain ultimately, at the end of the day, created this many jobs or destroyed this many jobs.

BLOCK: And with the primary in South Carolina a week from Saturday, does this debate continue? Do you figure that his opponents are gonna keep hammering away at this issue?

SHAPIRO: Absolutely. And this is not the only things they're hammering away at. There's an ad by Newt Gingrich that hammers away on Mitt Romney's record on abortion. They're attacking, really, in any way that they can find. All of that said, Mitt Romney's the only person ever to have won both Iowa and New Hampshire who was not an incumbent Republican and nobody has ever won South Carolina without first winning Iowa or New Hampshire.

South Carolina, in every primary race since 1980, has chosen the person who goes on to be the eventual nominee. All of those arrows point pretty strongly towards Mitt Romney.

BLOCK: Okay. NPR's Ari Shapiro traveling with the Romney campaign in Greenville, South Carolina. Ari, thank you.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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