WASHINGTON - President Obama's campaign tried Monday to tarnish Mitt Romney as a corporate titan who got rich by cutting rather than creating jobs, while the Romney campaign said the former Massachusetts governor welcomed an election-season conversation with Obama about jobs.
The Obama campaign opened a new effort to undercut Romney, who says his background of business success is just what America needs.
At the center of the Obama effort are a new website, TV ad, and online video including interviews with onetime workers at a Kansas City, Mo., steel mill that Romney's former private equity firm failed to successfully restructure. Workers lost jobs and health-care benefits. Pensions were reduced.
Countering the criticism, Romney's campaign said he helped spur tens of thousands of jobs and pointed to a net job loss during Obama's presidency, most of which occurred during the first few months of his administration. Obama has touted the creation of 4.2 million jobs over the last 26 months.
Obama crisscrossed Manhattan on Monday for a series of targeted appeals to three key election-year constituencies: women, young people, and gay and lesbian supporters.
During a commencement address at Barnard College, a private women's college, he urged the graduates to fight for their place at "the head of the table" and help lead a country still battered by economic woes toward brighter days. Obama said, "I believe that the women of this generation will help lead the way."
Later Monday, Obama was headlining his first fund-raiser specifically for gay and lesbian supporters since announcing his support for same-sex marriage last week.
Obama steered clear of criticizing Romney at Barnard, though he included a passing reference to nearby Wall Street, saying: "Some folks in the financial world have not exactly been model corporate citizens."
Romney, meanwhile, prepared to deliver a speech Tuesday in Iowa on reducing the huge federal debt.
JPMorgan Chase's disclosure that it lost more than $2 billion on bad trading bets renewed calls for tighter oversight of the nation's biggest financial institutions, a position that Obama has supported and Romney has opposed.
Obama said in an interview with ABC's The View that JPMorgan Chase's loss underscored the need for Wall Street rules passed by Congress two years ago, many of which have not yet gone into effect.
Romney argues that lower taxes across the board and fewer government restrictions are the answer to the nation's economic ills.
Obama's TV ad was scheduled to run in five battleground states - Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Colorado - and was part of a larger $25 million, monthlong campaign.
Republican officials tracking the ad buy said the Obama team was airing the two-minute spot only on Wednesday in the five states. The ad was expected to run during the evening news, directing viewers to an Obama website about Romney's economic record and a longer, six-minute version of the ad appearing online.
As Obama's campaign was raising Romney's record in private equity, the president was heading to two fund-raisers, including a $35,800-per-person dinner at the home of Hamilton "Tony" James, the president of Blackstone Group, the nation's largest private equity firm.
Romney's campaign, meanwhile, worked behind the scenes to counter the Obama campaign's message.
It released a Web video about a successful steel company that Romney's company invested in called Steel Dynamics. The video shows steelworkers describing the company as the embodiment of the American dream, noting that the company grew from a workforce of 1,400 to more than 6,000. That video was not immediately planned for television.