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Romney Battles Attacks On His Record In Pa.


Mitt Romney is trying to focus on President Obama's economic policies, and on the stump today, he changed the subject away from his time at Bain Capital. That's after a week of tough questions about Romney's record in the private sector, along with pressure to release more of his tax returns. The Republican is spending today in the Pittsburgh area, raising money and campaigning. NPR's Ari Shapiro attended Romney's rally and took the pulse of some voters to see whether the Democrats' attacks are having any impact.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: In Pittsburgh's historic South Side, vintage clothing stores and tattoo parlors crowd bars and restaurants for space. 23-year-old Randy Recker manages a coffee shop here. It's one of two jobs he works to make ends meet. He is exactly the kind of voter that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would both like to win over.

RANDY RECKER: Currently, I'm registered independent as a voter. I would say more or less I have conservative views. But I did vote for Obama four years ago.

SHAPIRO: This year, he hasn't made up his mind. He's not paying close attention to the campaign just yet. The question of whether Romney was involved in shipping jobs overseas still seems like background noise, but he's interested in the issue.

RECKER: I'm a person that's willing to pay an extra dollar to know that somebody is being paid fairly because they're working hard and it's being done in America by American citizens.

SHAPIRO: And so if it came out that Romney was responsible for outsourcing American jobs overseas when he was in the private sector, would that have an impact on who you would think about voting for?

RECKER: Yeah, no doubt. I would probably lean more towards Obama.

SHAPIRO: Just down the block, retiree Charles Noogle shuffles slowly down the sidewalk. He's an independent who says all the talk about Romney's business record just confirms his distaste for politicians of any stripe.

CHARLES NOOGLE: Because they're all crooks.


NOOGLE: They're situated for the rest of their lives, and they have it real easy.

SHAPIRO: Whether these attacks stick or not, they have put Romney on the defensive and given President Obama a break from questions about his own economic record. Today, Romney tried to change that dynamic, attacking President Obama repeatedly for what he called crony capitalism.

MITT ROMNEY: President Obama attacks success, and therefore under President Obama, we have less success, and I will change that.


SHAPIRO: In this Pittsburgh suburb, Romney rolled out new attack lines. He delivered them with a zealous, relentless enthusiasm, and the audience responded in kind. But the Obama campaign is not letting up either. This TV ad just started airing in Pennsylvania.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Romney has released just one full year of his tax returns and won't release anything before 2010.

ROMNEY: You know what, I've put out as much as we're going to put out.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What is Mitt Romney hiding?

SHAPIRO: Ads like that one are having an effect on people like Mike Dean. He owns a shop called Dormont News in a suburb just outside of Pittsburgh. He says he's a Democrat who sometimes votes for Republicans.

MIKE DEAN: I'd like to get to know Romney a little bit better.

SHAPIRO: That's what he says, but it's clear that the Obama campaign has already made the introduction.

DEAN: The general question probably is, why is he afraid to show us his tax returns? Which he probably should. It's - all candidates usually do.

SHAPIRO: Cabdriver Samuel Hearst has heard these claims too, but he thinks they're pretty routine. He's a Romney supporter.

SAMUEL HEARST: There's always going to be attacks. None of us are perfect. All of us have made mistakes. Obama has made mistakes. I'm sure Romney has made mistakes. You know, what it boils down to is the core or the character of the person.

SHAPIRO: Political scientist Terry Madonna is at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He says it doesn't look like these Obama attacks are having much impact on the race.

TERRY MADONNA: This race for the past five months is virtually unchanged, despite, you know, the health care ruling by the Supreme Court, despite the attacks by the president's campaign on Mitt Romney for Bain Capital among other things.

SHAPIRO: He says that could be because many voters have already made up their minds, or it could just be that people aren't paying attention yet. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Irwin, Pennsylvania. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.

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