Mitt Romney's campaign has an obvious challenge: how best to combat charges from the Obama campaign that when the all-but-official Republican nominee was in the private sector, he was heavily involved in offshoring the jobs of U.S. workers? (Obama's campaign has new ads up in Iowa, Ohio and Virginia banging on that point.)
One approach is defensive, certainly. Deny the accuracy of the charges, which Romney's campaign has been doing recently.
Another tactic is to go on the offensive on the offshoring front. That's a little tougher to do with Obama: He doesn't have much of a private-sector record on which he can — like Romney — be accused of outsourcing jobs.
But that doesn't mean Romney's campaign hasn't found a way to counterattack Obama. It charges that on Obama's watch, a number of U.S. multinational companies have created more jobs for workers abroad than in the U.S.
Romney's campaign pointed to an April 26 Wall Street Journal story headlined "U.S. Firms Add Jobs, but Mostly Overseas" in an attempt to put the Obama campaign on the defensive. In other words, maybe Romney's campaign can't accuse Obama of directly shipping jobs overseas, but it can suggest that his policies have led to that result.
Of course, going all the way back to the 2008 campaign, the president has repeatedly said that one reason U.S. companies create jobs overseas at a higher rate than at home is tax incentives. So the Obama campaign won't have to look long and hard for a rebuttal, as it has repeatedly called for reforms to the tax code to address this.
In case the first charge about multinationals doesn't do the trick, the Romney campaign charges that most taxpayer dollars from the 2009 economic stimulus — the better part of $1 trillion — went to overseas companies. Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement emailed to reporters:
"President Obama thinks that economic development means sending billions of taxpayer dollars to foreign-owned companies and rewarding donors with money from his failed stimulus program."
As I wrote this, I received an email Saul sent to reporters, an item headlined "O is for Outsourcing" from a conservative website called the Washington Free Beacon. The story alleges that the Obama campaign has used Canadian and Filipino telemarketing firms.
An investigative reporter at FactCheck.org examined similar allegations, which wound up in an ad by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. He concluded:
"While it's fair to say that the stimulus money likely created some jobs overseas, it's not fair to say that all of that money went to foreign jobs. That ignores the realities of our global economy, in which some American companies manufacture overseas, and vice versa ..."
It's too early to tell whether the Romney campaign's attempt at counterattacking the Obama campaign's outsourcing charges will work. Something to look for, however, would be if the Republican campaign sticks with the approach, since presidential campaigns generally quickly ditch lines of attack that are ineffective and move on.