Newark Mayor Cory Booker is backing off comments he made Sunday, when he chastised the president's reelection team over its ad campaign attacking Mitt Romney's record at private equity firm Bain Capital.
Booker, a top Obama campaign surrogate, released a YouTube video late Sunday night in which he said it is "reasonable" for the Obama campaign to examine Romney's business record since Romney himself has made it "a centerpiece of his campaign," the Associated Press reports.
In the video, Booker says his earlier remarks were intended to express his "profound frustration" with negative campaigning, reiterating he believes Obama "more than deserves re-election."
The unusual comments from Booker came during a roundtable discussion Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"I have to just say from a very personal level, I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity," Booker said, referring to the ad which spotlighted the story of a Kansas City steel company that went bankrupt after Bain Capital's involvement.
"If you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses," he added. "And this, to me, I'm very uncomfortable with."
Booker tied the choices he faced as mayor to those faced by companies Bain dealt with.
"This is not about what happened at Bain Capital. Heck, I've reduced the employees in my city 25 percent because it's the only way my government would survive. Call me a job-cutter, if you want," he said.
Booker prefaced his criticism by saying he believes the Obama administration's policies have benefited "average Americans" and small businesses.
He also criticized a now-scuttled Republican proposal to run ads once again tying Obama to his controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, as well as the Bain ad.
"This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides," Booker said. "It's nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop, because what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on. It's a distraction from the real issues."
"It's either gonna be a small campaign about this crap, or it's gonna be a big campaign in my opinion about the issues the American public cares about," he said.
The criticism from Booker underscored the risk for the Obama campaign in bringing back Bain.
When some Republican primary candidates first tried hammering Romney earlier in the year by invoking his Bain tenure, they drew the ire of conservatives uncomfortable with the perceived attack on free-market capitalism.
Booker later reiterated his support for Obama's re-election on Twitter, without backing down from his criticism of the campaign.
"I'll always prioritize my nation over a political party. (And) right now crass divisive partisan politics is not serving the citizens of my city," he wrote.
"So I'll clarify my comments on (Meet the Press)," he added. "Yes, Obama must be re-elected. But we as a nation owe it to him (and) ourselves (to) reject politics as usual."
The Associated Press and NewsCore contributed to this report.