Mitt Romney brought his newly aggressive style of attack against President Obama to Ohio on Wednesday, hammering the president for his recent comments on small businesses and pledging to "fight for the soul of America" in the face of mounting pressure to release more of his tax returns.
Mr. Romney, at a town hall meeting in Bowling Green, noted that Mr. Obama has held a hundred fundraisers in the past six months, but no public meetings of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
"So it makes it very clear where his priorities are," he said. "He's out of touch, he's out of ideas, he's out of excuses, and that's why November, we got to get him out of office."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said while the council hasn't formally met recently, the president solicits and receives input from its members all the time.
Mr. Romney has been busy deflecting questions about his time at Bain Capital and whether he will release more of his tax returns, but remarks Mr. Obama made last week apparently have ignited a fire in the GOP challenger.
At a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va., Mr. Obama said, "If you have a small business, you didn't build that," making the point that other people, sources or government services inevitably helped it along.
Mr. Romney has hammered back since then, arguing the comments reveal Mr. Obama's lack of knowledge about how the private sector works.
"This idea of criticizing and attacking success, of demonizing those in all walks of life who have been successful, is something which is so foreign to us we simply can't understand it," he said.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt countered that Mr. Romney is just trying to change the subject, and that he's taking the president's words out of context.
"The president certainly credited entrepreneurs and innovators with the creation of start-ups and businesses," he said. "The president also said there is more we can do to improve the business climate."
Mr. Romney's campaign and national Republicans are also on the offensive with another new line of attack of painting Mr. Obama as a "crony capitalist."
"Where did all the Obama stimulus money go?" asks the narrator in a television ad released Wednesday, complete with money ablaze in the background. "Friends, donors, campaign supporters, special interest groups."
It cites the most high-profile flop, Solyndra — an energy company that was given a $500 million loan from the government before going bankrupt. And, for good measure, it shows a clip of U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, criticizing the wind energy stimulus program.
Again, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said Mr. Romney is just trying to deflect attention away from his record at Bain Capital and his refusal to release more of his financial information.
"So he's joined his surrogates and allies in launching over-the-top attacks that independent fact-checkers and news organizations have said are 'flat out false,' 'wrong,' and use 'weasel words,' " she said.
Mr. Romney is also facing a small but steady drumbeat of conservatives from former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to Texas Gov. Rick Perry calling for him to release more of his tax returns in an effort to combat Democrats' implications that he must have something to hide. He has released his 2010 tax records and an estimate for 2011, showing that he paid an effective tax rate of about 14 percent in 2010.
However, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, said voters she is talking to simply don't care about the issue.
"When it comes to tax returns, it is my understanding that the governor has released the same number of tax returns at Sen. [John] McCain" in 2008, she said. "Quite frankly, what the American people are talking about is not tax returns — it's jobs and the economy."
Mr. Romney's trip to Ohio comes just days after Mr. Obama swung through the state, which will certainly receive ample attention from both sides: No Republican presidential candidate has ever lost Ohio and won the White House. Real Clear Politics' latest average of polls has Mr. Obama leading by 3.8 points in the state, which he won by 4 points in 2008.
Mr. Obama's campaign, in concert with the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party, has also sued the state's chief election official over a new law that curbs in-person early voting in the three days before Election Day. The lawsuit argues that most residents are unfairly treated, since the law exempts overseas and military voters. The move is the latest in an ongoing battle between Mr. Obama and Republican states that have recently passed new voting laws. Proponents of the laws, some of which require photo identification at the polls, say they are intended to curb voter fraud, but opponents claim they are thinly-veiled attempts to suppress Democratic turnout.
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