Washington: President Barack Obama's and Republican challenger Mitt Romney's starkly differing visions of how the US economy should work are drawing into sharper focus as the candidates appeal to voters who say jobs and economic security are the foremost issue in the November
election.

Obama's attacks on Romney's tenure as head of a successful private equity firm and a determination "to maximize profits" are an assault on free enterprise, Romney says.

The president says the drive for profit is "not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers." The Obama campaign has tried, in a recent ad and an online video, to undermine Romney's record as a business executive by focusing on two companies that were closed down or failed after they were absorbed into the web of enterprises under Bain Capital, the organization Romney helped found in 1984.

 He maintains financial ties to the company but left it years ago to run the Salt Lake City Olympic games and then to serve as Massachusetts governor.

Obama's remarks on Tuesday at the end of a NATO summit in Chicago were in response to a question about Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker's weekend criticism of the Obama campaign's attack on Romney's private equity background.

Booker, an Obama supporter, called exchanges by the campaigns over Bain "nauseating" and a distraction from issues that interest voters.

"This is not a distraction," Obama said at a news conference. "This is what this campaign is going to be about." Meanwhile, a conservative-leaning independent group launched a USD 10 million television ad campaign saying Obama has not lived up to the expectations voters had for him.

Crossroads GPS is running the ad in 10 key battleground states, targeting voters who backed Obama in 2008 but might vote against him this time. Crossroads GPS has ties to Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's longtime political strategist. The group is not required to disclose its donors.

(Agencies)

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