Obama allies tell Romney to 'quit whining' about Bain attacks
* Democrats say won't stop attacks on Romney record
* Romney supporters say economy, jobs the main issue
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON, July 15 (Reuters) - Mitt Romney should "stop whining" about attacks on his business record that have knocked the Republican presidential candidate on his heels over the past week, aides and allies of President Barack Obama said on Sunday.
Obama officials said they would not apologize for suggesting that Romney may have broken the law by misrepresenting his position at private-equity firm Bain Capital, part of a relentless assault on the former executive's business career and personal wealth that appears to have hurt him in the polls.
"Stop whining," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, said on ABC's "This Week" program. "If you want to claim Bain Capital as your calling card to the White House, then defend what happened at Bain Capital."
Romney allies said the attacks were an attempt to distract voters' attention from the fact that Obama has failed to counter high unemployment and sluggish economic growth during his three and a half years in the White House.
"The president can talk all he want about this, but it's the economy and jobs that are going to address this election," Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, seen as a possible vice presidential running mate for Romney, said on ABC's "This Week" program.
Obama said he understood why Romney was trying to make the Nov. 6 election a referendum on the incumbent's economic record.
"You don't hear me complaining about him making that argument, because if I was in his shoes I'd be making the same argument," Obama said on "CBS This Morning."
The Romney campaign released a new television ad relying on footage of journalists talking about how Obama's negative tactics this year contrasted sharply with the message of hope and change he campaigned on four years ago.
"This is not the candidate of hope and change, this is a candidate who is hoping to change the subject," Republican Representative Paul Ryan, another possible vice presidential candidate, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
BAIN A LIABILITY FOR ROMNEY?
Romney has argued that the economic expertise he developed as an investor, manager and consultant make him a better choice than Obama to kick-start an economy that has been slow to recover from the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
But Romney's record at Bain is also shaping up to be something of a liability. Democrats have highlighted companies that went bankrupt or shipped jobs overseas under Bain's ownership to argue that Romney is only concerned with helping his fellow millionaires, not working people.
Some polls found that Romney's negative ratings in battleground states rose in June, after Obama and Democratic groups launched their attacks on the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney's campaign has said he should not be held responsible for many of those decisions because they occurred after he left Bain in February 1999 to oversee the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
But Romney continued to claim in regulatory filings that he was still in charge of Bain through 2002, according to documents that have surfaced over the past week. Bain and Romney officials say it took several years to sort out the terms of his departure but that he was not involved with the company's day-to-day operations during that time.
"He actually retired retroactively at that point. He ended up not going back to the firm after his time in Salt Lake City," Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.
Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter suggested last week that Romney could have committed a felony if he signed forms saying he was in charge of Bain when he was not -- which prompted Romney to demand an apology.
"He's not going to get an apology," Cutter said on "Face the Nation."
Cutter and other Democrats have also criticized Romney for setting up bank accounts in offshore tax havens and refusing to release more information about a personal fortune that is worth as much as $250 million.
"Instead of whining about what the Obama campaign is saying, why don't you just put the facts out there and let people decide rather than trying to hide them?" Cutter said.