(Updates with attack video starting in fifth paragraph.)
Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney pushed back against critics who call him beholden to big business as he sought to solidify support in New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary.
“I’m independent of Wall Street,” Romney, 64, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that began airing yesterday. “By the way, I haven’t ever worked on Wall Street.”
Romney, who made his fortune at the private equity firm Bain Capital LLC he helped found, said Wall Street firms were merely “service providers” to his company. The second-time Republican presidential candidate also said he had created more jobs than he eliminated in lucrative deals that sometimes resulted in layoffs.
“The jobs created at Bain Capital by companies that we helped start or that we helped manage, those companies today employ well over 100,000 more jobs than, than those that were lost,” Romney said.
Democrats are holding a series of news conferences featuring workers who lost their jobs after Bain took over their companies.
Winning our Future, a political action committee aligned with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, plans to release a 30-minute video entitled “When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” that documents the hardships experienced by workers laid off after Bain bought their companies.
$12 Million House
A preview of the film juxtaposes images of Romney getting his shoes shined on the tarmac next to a corporate jet and his $12 million beach house in La Jolla, California, with vignettes of workers in Marion, Indiana, describing how they lost homes and livelihoods after Romney’s firm bought the office supply products company Ampad.
Gingrich’s campaign began airing television ads against Romney in South Carolina yesterday, calling his economic plan “timid” and virtually identical to President Barack Obama’s.
“Timid won’t create jobs and timid certainly won’t defeat Barack Obama,” the ad says.
In the interview yesterday, Romney defended his own jobs record even as he criticized Obama’s economic performance, responding to the release of the best U.S. jobs report since February 2009.
While Romney said he was “delighted” to see the unemployment rate drop, he said Obama’s record had been a “failure.” Romney acknowledged that an improving economy “may well” boost Obama’s re-election chances.
“I’ll have to make sure that my message is clear and honed well,” Romney said.
Rivals are working to turn the business experience Romney cites as his central qualification to be president against him as they seek to stifle his momentum in the race for the Republican nomination.
“It becomes very difficult when you’ve taken tens of millions of dollars from the banking community, from Wall Street and for many, many years, to have a discussion that fundamentally alters their course,” said former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “It can only be done, I would argue, by someone who isn’t a captive, a subsidiary of Wall Street.”
Heading into tonight’s ABC News debate, Romney is maintaining a 2-1 lead over his nearest rival in a poll of likely voters in the New Hampshire primary. Romney had 39 percent support compared with 17 percent for Texas Representative Ron Paul in a Suffolk University/7News tracking poll conducted Jan. 5-6.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came in third, with 10 percent support, followed by former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Huntsman, who tied at 9 percent. The poll, which surveyed a total of 500 likely Republican primary voters over two nights, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.
Huntsman, 52, said Romney would be a “status quo president” on issues dealing with Wall Street and Washington influence peddling, in the Bloomberg interview. Huntsman also said Romney should release his tax returns because “transparency” and “trust” are central issues in the campaign.
Huntsman hasn’t released his own tax returns. Campaign spokesman Tim Miller said the candidate would disclose his returns if he wins the party’s nomination.
Paul took aim at Santorum yesterday, calling the former senator, 53, a spendthrift with federal money. Paul’s comments came as he began a five-day New Hampshire campaign push that he said will highlight his Republican presidential rivals’ backing for “big government.”
Paul, who is trying to hold off a challenge from Santorum following Santorum’s late surge in Iowa, criticized the former senator for supporting increased spending on education, a federal prescription drug benefit and legislation to boost the debt limit.
“He talks about being for the Balanced Budget Amendment -- he never did anything about it,” Paul, 76, told reporters in Nashua. “Four or five times he voted to raise the national debt, so that tells you how conservative he is.”
Looking to the next primary South Carolina on Jan. 21, Paul’s campaign announced it would run television ads there branding Santorum a “serial hypocrite who can’t be trusted” and charging he has a “record of betrayal” of conservative principles. Paul is airing similar spots in New Hampshire calling Romney a “flip-flopper” and reprising his criticism of Gingrich for “serial hypocrisy.”
Paul distanced himself from a web video circulated by a group calling itself NHLiberty4Paul that questions whether Huntsman, the former ambassador to China, has “American values? Or Chinese?” and concludes with an appeal to vote for Paul.
“I understand it’s an ugly ad and I’ve disavowed it,” Paul said. “Obviously, it was way out of order.”
Paul’s campaign aides have said they don’t know who is responsible for the video and suggested it wasn’t made by someone who genuinely supports him.
--With assistance from Peter Cook and Kathleen Hunter in Washington. Editors: Jim Rubin, Ann Hughey.
To contact the reporters on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Lisa Lerer in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org