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TheStreet Open House

Obama Recycles Romney Steel Mill Closure in New Ad

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Barack Obama's campaign appears to have dug up an attack from Mitt Romney's 2002 gubernatorial race.

The president launched an ad on Monday that criticized Romney's handling of a steel mill that went bankrupt under the management of Bain Capital.

Reuters reported details of the story in January as it called GST Steel (the spotlighted mill) Romney's "steel skeleton in the Bain closet," but former Democratic opponent Shannon P. O'Brien used GST Steel late in her unsuccessful 2002 race for Massachusetts governor.

"Democrats are hoping GST will become the Ampad of this campaign, and workers from the steel company are expected to come to Massachusetts next week to dog Romney," The Boston Globe reported in October 2002.

Ampad refers to an Indiana paper mill owned by Bain Capital that saw workers' benefits cut and then was shuttered in 1995. The issue was brought up during Romney's unsuccessful 1994 U.S. Senate run against the late Ted Kennedy.

Indeed, the GST Steel story features some damning facts: GST Steel eliminated some 750 jobs, cut pension benefits and eventually shuttered the business, which had previously employed as many as 4,500 people.

It's hard to determine how this ad will affect voters. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told Politico on Monday that the ad was "an invitation to engage in a larger debate about jobs."

Obama, though, had a familiar face call the ad "unfair."

Former Obama-appointed "car czar" Steven Rattner, who the administration tapped to lead the team that eventually devised the bailout plan for the American automotive giants , said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Romney's mistake wasn't cutting jobs -- that's a part of capitalism -- but rather a previous comment from the presumed GOP nominee that he created 100,000 jobs.

"Mitt Romney made a mistake ever talking about the fact that he created 100,000 jobs," said Rattner. "Bain Capital's responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number. It was to create profits for his investors, most of whom were pension funds, endowments and foundations."

Current Romney senior aide Eric Fehrnstrom in 2002 said Romney had not been involved in the GST Steel layoffs as he was busy preparing for the 2002 Winter Olympics, according to a previously mentioned Globe story. But aides to his opponent reportedly produced documents that proved Romney was still a Bain Capital principal when it sold GST in 2001. Fehrnstrom responded that it was possible that Romney had still been a principal but that he didn't have decision-making authority.

Romney managed to overcome the late-race GST Steel attacks and win the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial election with 49.8% of the vote against O'Brien's 44.9%.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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