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Obama responds to Romney with fresh attack

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President Barack Obama meets a young girl in the audience during a campaign rally in Glen Allen, Virginia [Reuters]An unrelenting President Barack Obama has jabbed at Republican candidate Mitt Romney's record with a private equity firm in two fresh ads, barely a day after his rival sought an apology over an earlier advertisement from the US president's campaign team.

Obama met Romney's plea for an apology over the attacks with a mocking ad that charged that the firm Romney founded had shipped American jobs to China and Mexico, that Romney has personal wealth invested in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, and that as Massachusetts governor, he sent state jobs to India.

"Mitt Romney's not the solution. He's the problem," the ad says as Romney is heard singing "America the Beautiful" at a campaign appearance.

Another ad released on Saturday played clips of Romney demanding the president apologise, followed by footage of the Republican candidate attacking Obama.

"Mitt Romney. He sure asks for a lot of apologies," the ad said. "When he's not busy launching attacks."

The Romney campaign slammed Obama for the ads.

"Every day, President Obama hits a new low," said Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "It is sad and shameful that President Obama would mock 'America The Beautiful'. But sadly it's not surprising for the man who launched his presidency with an apology tour."

At stake is Romney's chief contention that as a former businessman, he has the experience to create jobs and spur a struggling economy.

The Obama campaign has said that Romney ran a firm that pioneered the practice of sending American jobs out of the country and that his background is one of an investor rather than a job creator.

Romney on Friday demanded that Obama apologise for his campaign's attacks about his business record and questions over whether the Republican was still leading Bain when the private equity firm outsourced US jobs abroad.

Obama has said since Romney touts his business background as one of the main reasons he should be elected president, then Romney should answer questions about when he left Bain Capital.

Obama also suggested that Romney was a deep-pocketed candidate who was mainly attacking him on the economy but had not offered suggestions on how to fix it.

Pressure was also building on Romney from within his own party to be more forthcoming with his finances, a day after he declared that he would not release past income tax returns beyond his 2010 tax records.

Campaign trail

Meanwhile, Obama, soaked to the skin as he rallied supporters during a downpour in the election battleground state of Virginia, kept up his attack on Romney as the rhetoric hardened on both sides.

Standing before about 900 people on Saturday at the Walkerton Tavern & Garden who stood cheering and chanting despite the drenching rain, Obama attacked Romney's record as head of a private equity firm and contrasted his own middle-class childhood with Romney's wealth.

"I don't want a pioneer in outsourcing. I want some insourcing. I want to bring companies back," Obama told the crowd in this town near Richmond, his wet blue shirt sticking to his arms and rain dripping from his face, as supporters chanted, "Four more years".

Obama did not dwell on Romney's business record, leaving the sharpest attacks to his campaign and the new television commercial. Still he played up the charge that Romney and the private equity firm he founded in 1984 sent jobs overseas.

"Over the next four months the other side is going to spend more money than we've ever seen in our lifetime on a bunch of negative ads," Obama said, brushing rain off his face. "What these ads are going to do is just say the economy isn't where it needs to be and it's Obama's fault. That's their message."

"That's a plan for maybe winning the election but it's not a plan for creating jobs or helping the middle class. It's not a plan for rebuilding our economy."

Economic themes

Winding down his speech, Obama joked about the bad weather as the rain picked up. "I'm wrapping up. Everyone is wet anyway so it doesn't matter," he said to laughter. "Those hairdos are gone."

While Obama hammered Romney for a second consecutive day in Virginia, Romney spent time with his family in New Hampshire.

Romney has kept his campaign message exclusively on economic themes, casting the election as a referendum on Obama's economic stewardship.

With polls showing a relatively competitive race for the November 6 election, Obama has constantly painted Romney as a multi-millionare private equity specialist who is out of touch with ordinary voters.

The president continued that theme on Saturday, reminiscing about humble vacations as a child when his family would travel on a Greyhound Bus and a highlight was being able to swim in the motel swimming pool or using the motel's vending machines.

Tensions between the campaigns have escalated sharply over Romney's tenure at Bain Capital, which the Democratic president has used to put his opponent on the defensive and switch the conversation from Obama's stewardship of the weak economy.

Obama had another campaign event in northern Virginia on Saturday as he wrapped up a two-day swing through the state before heading to Ohio on Monday. Both states are vital to his re-election hopes in November and recent polls show him ahead in each.

Romney, who has said his business background will help him turn around the US economy and create more jobs, got caught flatfooted this week in beating down Democrats' accusations that he was involved in firing workers and outsourcing US jobs to foreign countries while at Bain.

Romney has said he left the firm in 1999, when he was tapped to lead the Salt Lake City Olympics. But the Boston Globe reported on Thursday that public records indicate he was still registered as a top official at Bain for three more years.

Timing matters because Romney has said since he left Bain in 1999 he was not responsible for bankruptcies and layoffs at Bain-owned businesses after that time. Obama's re-election campaign has used those bankruptcies and layoffs to question the Republican's track record.

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