ABC News' Michael Falcone and Arlette Saenz report:
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - After a blistering assault from Democrats on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital over the last 24-hours, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell acknowledged that the presumptive Republican nominee's time at the private equity firm was "clearly fair game."
But at a news conference here on Friday, McDonnell drew the line at Romney's actions at the helm of Bain up until 1999 when his campaign says he took a leave of absence from the company to run the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games.
"What he did while he was the managing director certainly, certainly fair game and I tell you that record is about 120,000 new jobs, prudent investments in a lot of startup companies," McDonnell said at a news conference opening a meeting of state governors in Virginia. "In America , you have the freedom to succeed or fail. Sometimes you do both when you're in business. That's the story of the American dream."
McDonnell, however, declared any attacks on Romney's record at the firm after 1999 off limits despite Thursday's Boston Globe story reporting that Romney remained chief executive of Bain and owned a 100 percent stake in the company until 2002.
"What's absolutely wrong and it should not be part of this and it's tremendously disingenuous on the part of the administration and their team in this campaign is to say that things happened after Mitt Romney left Bain Capital as the executive and managing director when he went to rescue the Olympics," McDonnell said.
The Virginia governor, who is a top campaign surrogate for Romney and is often mentioned as a potential vice presidential contender, said that attacks on Romney's dealings with Bain post-1999 were "not fair."
McDonnell called on the Obama campaign to take down any campaign ads leveling such attacks.
"That's not honest and if he's got those things on the ad, he needs to pull them," the Virginia governor said.
McDonnell's office disputed reports that he said Romney's record at Bain was out of bounds at an event organized by the Romney campaign earlier in the day to pre-but President Obama's visit to Virginia on Friday and Saturday. Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith circulated a BuzzFeed story adding her own characterization: "McDonnell Declares Central Premise of Romney's Candidacy Off Limits."
"One of three things had to have happened here: Chicago only received half of the article, they have some reading comprehension struggles, or they just want another distraction from the President's failed record," McDonnell's communications director Tucker Martin said in a statement. "Whatever the case may be, it was awkward to watch."