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Obama attacks target Romney of past, present

President Obama pounded Republican challenger Mitt Romney for his past business practices and current immigration views during a swing Friday through the heart of the nation's largest battleground state.

At a campaign rally near the west coast of Florida, the president reacted sharply to a report that Romney, as a private-equity investor in the 1990s, had owned companies that were at the forefront of the trend to send U.S. jobs overseas.

"Today it was reported in the Washington Post that the companies his firm owned were 'pioneers' in the outsourcing of American jobs to places like China and India. Pioneers!" Obama said, referring to Bain Capital, which Romney co-founded.

"We don't need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office. We need a president who will fight for American jobs and American manufacturing. And that's what my plan will do."

The Obama campaign has attempted to capitalize on politically unpopular elements of Romney's business background, such as the layoffs of workers at some companies that Bain Capital took over, or the big profits reaped by Romney and his partners at firms they owned that later went bankrupt.

"People really have a fundamental choice in this election," Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod told reporters on a conference call. "The question is, do they want an outsourcer-in-chief in the Oval Office or do they want a president who will fight for American jobs, American manufacturing and the American middle class."

Friday, the campaign rushed out a Web video assailing what it called Romney's "career of shipping American jobs" to other countries.

The Romney campaign called the Post report "fundamentally flawed," drawing a distinction between "outsourcing" and "off-shoring."

Obama's remarks to the crowd at Hillsborough Community College followed an earlier, campaign-style appearance before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which is meeting at Disney World, in Orlando.

The president's remarks were designed, in large part, to rebut Romney's speech to the same group a day earlier, when he promised to pursue bipartisan action as president to overhaul the nation's dysfunctional immigration system.

Reminding the Latino officials that Romney had assured them that he's a man who keeps his promises, Obama recalled another Romney pledge, made during the Republican primaries: to veto the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants.

"We should take him at his word," Obama said. "I'm just sayin'. I believe that would be a tragic mistake. You do, too."

In the 2008 campaign, Obama pledged to act on a comprehensive immigration reform during his first year in office, but neither the president nor congressional Democrats have done so.

The Romney campaign responded to the president's remarks by attacking the slow economic recovery that has hit Latinos unusually hard.

"In 2008, candidate Obama promised NALEO he would create new jobs and end the housing crisis. Four years later, President Obama is back asking for more time. No election-year speech can cover up the president's job-killing policies that have led to 11 percent Hispanic unemployment and millions of Hispanics living in poverty," Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.

During his speech, Obama sought to build on momentum from the executive action he took last week to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation, a move that has sparked enthusiasm among Latino voters, polls show.

The audience cheered his mention of the decision and jumped to its feet as he attacked Republicans for blocking passage of the DREAM Act.

He blamed "a small faction" in the Republican Party for Washington's stalemate over immigration, which he said had led to state laws "that cause more problems than they solve and are often doing more harm than good."