There was more evidence Monday that Missouri has dropped into the second tier of presidential battleground states.
The Barack Obama re-election campaign unveiled its first negative TV ad, a blistering attack on Republican opponent Mitt Romney’s involvement with the collapse of Kansas City-based GST Steel more than a decade ago.
But while the two-minute Obama commercial is expected to run in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado, it can’t be seen on television in Missouri or Kansas City, even though it features Kansas City workers talking about a Kansas City business.
“It’s pretty clear Missouri is not a battleground state for the Obama re-elect,” said Kansas City-based Democratic consultant Richard Martin. “And those other states are.”
The ad, which was available online, features former workers from the plant, as well as headlines from old editions of The Kansas City Star.
The Romney campaign did not dispute the central facts in the spot, but a spokeswoman accused the Obama campaign of trying to divert attention from the president’s economic record.
“We welcome the Obama campaign’s attempt to pivot back to jobs and a discussion of their failed record,” said Sarah Pompei in an emailed statement. “Mitt Romney helped create more jobs in his private sector experience and more jobs as governor of Massachusetts than President Obama has for the entire nation.”
The Obama campaign declined to comment on why Missouri was not a focus of the commercial buy.
But it was happy to comment on the content of the commercial, holding a national telephone conference with Joe Soptic, a Kansas Citian who worked at GST, to talk about the ad.
The ad’s criticism of Romney was predictable. GOP opponents Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry also raised the GST issue during the primaries, and Romney has faced similar attacks in other races.
In 1993, Romney’s company, Bain Capital, bought the old Armco steel plant in northeast Kansas City, renaming it GST Steel. The company borrowed millions to modernize the facility, but it also used the borrowed funds to pay itself back for its initial investment in GST.
In 2001 — two years after Romney left Bain Capital — GST Steel declared bankruptcy, leaving more than 700 people out of work.
In a statement, Bain Capital said Monday that it did its best to turn GST around.
“We invested more than $100 million and many thousands of hours into this turnaround, upgrading its facilities in an attempt to make the company competitive,” the statement said. “This was unfortunately at a time when the steel industry came under enormous pressure, and nearly half of all U.S. steel companies went into bankruptcy.”
Romney supporters also pointed out the candidate’s decision to leave Bain before the GST bankruptcy, even though he continued to receive income from the company.
Obama supporters said Romney’s departure did not absolve him of responsibility for GST’s demise or its workers’ troubles, which included reduced health and pension benefits.
“You load something up with debt, debt you know is going to cause it to fail, and you’re able to walk away from the misery you caused so many people,” said David Foster, who negotiated for GST’s unionized workers. “That to me is all I need to know about the value statement of this particular candidate.”