Romney Defends Bain Record, Hits Obama on Economy: ‘He Just Doesn’t Have a Clue’

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Peter Hapak for TIME

Mark Halperin interviews Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney lashed President Obama’s economic stewardship in an interview with TIME’s Mark Halperin on Wednesday, deflecting attacks on his years as a private equity executive and laying out how he hopes to take control of the economy as soon as he’s sworn in, should he defeat Obama in November.

A week after the President’s re-election campaign launched a withering TV offensive painting Romney as corporate raider–and days after Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a prominent Democratic surrogate, disavowed the attack–Romney said Obama’s record is the one that voters really care about.

“What is it that he’s done as the President of the United States over the last four years?” Romney said. “The American people are interested, not so much in the history of where I was at Bain Capital, or that I have understanding of the private sector, but instead, has the President made things better for the American people?”

As for scrutiny of his private equity career, Romney said it is just one part of a broader set of experiences that better qualify him for office. “You learn through life’s experience. The President’s experience has been exclusively in politics and as a community organizer,” Romney said. “Both of those are fine areas of endeavor, but right now we have an economy in trouble, and someone who spent their career in the economy is more suited to help fix the economy than someone who spent his life in politics and as a community organizer.”

Romney hopes to put that experience to work as soon as possible: Specifically, he wants Congress to wait to resolve the so-called “fiscal cliff”–an enormous group of scheduled spending cuts and expiring tax breaks set to kick in on Jan. 1–until he takes office. “I would like to be able to deal with these issues on a structural basis, on a permanent basis as opposed to a stopgap effort that would require unraveling and reevaluation,” Romney said. “My preference would be to have the opportunity to do that after the election as opposed to have the President in a lame-duck session try and create a solution that may not be in keeping with the new Administration.”

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Waiting may be a risky proposition. On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that a failure to resolve the cliff would throw the U.S. into recession. And leaving the U.S. in fiscal limbo is exactly the kind of uncertainty businesses and Wall Street analysts have warned against.

But Romney isn’t worried. “Well actually if I’m lucky enough to be elected the consumers and the small-business people in this country will realize that they have a friend in the White House who is actively going to encourage economic growth, and there will be a resurgence in confidence in this country and a willingness to take risks, to invest, to add employees,” he told TIME. “I think it will be very positive news to the American economy.”

Read more from TIME interview with Romney here, and watch for the full interview in this space tomorrow.

(MOREOur Upcoming Cover Story on Mitt Romney)