Obama takes Romney's economic credentials to task

President Barack Obama has defended taking Mitt Romney's economic record to task, suggesting his Republican rival's success in business does not necessarily mean he would create jobs if elected, according to comments released Friday.

Romney, a former entrepreneur who made a fortune at his firm Bain Capital, has played up his experience in the private sector in a bid to oust Obama on November 6, arguing it makes him qualified to put more Americans back to work at a time when US unemployment is at 8.2 percent.

Obama, however, said close scrutiny of Romney's overall record was merited because his opponent was using his business background and ability to become "Mr Fix-It on the economy," as "his main calling card."

"I do not think at all it disqualifies him," Obama told broadcaster CBS in an interview taped Thursday, justifying his jabs at Romney's career.

"I think it is entirely appropriate to look at that record and see whether, in fact, his focus was creating jobs and he successfully did that. And when you look at the record, there are questions there that have to be asked."

Obama's comments came after his campaign launched a fierce attack on Romney Thursday, accusing the former governor of Massachusetts of lying about how long he remained head of Bain Capital.

His team seized on a Boston Globe report citing government records that appear to show he stayed in control of the private equity firm for three years beyond the 1999 date during which he said he had stepped down.

What followed was a withering assault on Romney, with his campaign warning the challenger may have committed a felony if he misrepresented his position at Bain to federal regulators.

The 1999 date could be important, as Bain Capital is alleged to have invested in firms that moved workers overseas after that year and Obama supporters are attempting to paint Romney as a destroyer of jobs.

"The point I've made there in the past is, if you're head of a large private equity firm or a hedge fund, your job is to make money," Obama said in the same CBS interview, again addressing Romney's tenure at Bain Capital.

"It's not even to create a successful business. It's to make sure that you are maximizing returns for your investor."

The latest attacks by Democrats follow others lashing out at the multimillionaire for only releasing his tax returns for 2010 -- in addition to an estimate for 2011 -- amid speculation about his offshore accounts.

Former president Bill Clinton, a big-hitter in the Obama camp, weighed in on the issue Friday, telling broadcaster NBC he was "a little surprised" that Romney had not released more returns.

"That kind of perplexed me because this is the first time in, I don't know, more than 30 years that anybody running for president has only done that," he said.

Romney's wealth, estimated to be around $250 million, has repeatedly surfaced as an issue during the campaign as Obama tries to paint his rival as out of touch with ordinary Americans.

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