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Stephanie Cutter: We Never Understood Why Romney Campaign Didn't Push Back On Bain Attacks

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Stephanie Cutter, who served as the Obama campaign's spokeswoman in 2012, said Mitt Romney never fully recovered from the rightward lurch he took during the GOP primaries. (AP Photo/CBS, Chris Usher)
Stephanie Cutter, who served as the Obama campaign's spokeswoman in 2012, said Mitt Romney never fully recovered from the rightward lurch he took during the GOP primaries. (AP Photo/CBS, Chris Usher)

WASHINGTON -- Stephanie Cutter still doesn't understand why Mitt Romney's campaign did not more forcefully defend its candidate's business experience.

Cutter, who served as President Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager in the 2012 election, said on Friday that the Romney campaign's failure to aggressively respond to the attacks on Bain Capital was one of its biggest mistakes.

"I never understood why they never pushed back on our attacks on his business experience," Cutter said at the seventh annual RootsCamp conference for progressive organizers in Washington, D.C. "He ran largely on an argument that, 'I understand the real economy, I know how to fix this and the president doesn't -- he's never been in the real economy,' with his only credential his Bain experience."

The Obama campaign hammered Romney on Bain during the campaign, essentially painting the former Massachusetts governor as a corporate takeover artist who founded a firm that specialized in outsourced U.S. jobs.

While some prominent Democrats initially criticized the Obama campaign for "attacking private equity," the campaign didn't back down.

"We weren't making an argument ... that Bain was bad," Cutter said on Friday. "We were making an argument that this experience does not qualify you to be president of the United States or to understand the real economy. We obviously worked hard to tear that down, and they never built it back up. I never understood why."

Cutter isn't alone in her confusion on the Romney strategy. GOP political strategist Karl Rove, whose Crossroads groups spent more than $300 million in the 2012 election on candidates -- who, for the most part, lost -- also said on Fox News after the election that the Romney campaign should have fought back faster.

"The first group to respond to the attacks on Bain Capital was not the Romney campaign, it was American Crossroads with an ad in July. We don't do defense all that well," Rove said, adding that it was sometimes more effective to have the candidate appear in an ad and respond directly to the charges being leveled.

"I don't know if they didn't have a good understanding as to the deals that we were talking about, or the history of Romney at Bain, but I never understood why they didn't make a counter-argument to what we were saying -- which was his sole credential," Cutter said. "Remember, it was really the only thing he put on the table to qualify him as president."

Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom did not return a request for comment on Cutter's remarks.

After months of fervently trying to move the conversation away from Bain, the Romney campaign did finally bring it back in August. The Republican National Convention highlighted individuals connected to Bain who all portrayed Romney as a strong leader with integrity, and as someone who would be able to save a struggling U.S. economy just as he turned around failing businesses.

Cutter also pointed to Romney's rightward shift in the GOP primary as a problem, noting he was never fully able to recover.

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