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PUEBLO, Colo. – Mitt Romney and President Obama on Thursday both deplored the pervasive presence of televised attack ads in the race for the White House, with each blaming the other.
Romney went first, saying of the president’s campaign, “They just blast ahead” with ads that have been judged false by independent fact checkers.
“I don’t know whatever happened to a campaign of ‘hope and change,’” he said, a reference to the spirit of optimism that Obama evoked during his successful run for the White House in 2008.
Romney broached the subject two days after the release of a searing ad, which was the work of Priorities USA Action, a group that supports Obama and was co-founded by Bill Burton, a Buffalo native and former White House aide. In the ad, a former steelworker appears to suggest that Romney and Bain Capital, the private equity firm he owned, might bear some responsibility for the death of the man’s wife from cancer several years ago after he lost his health insurance when he was laid off from a company that was bought by Bain. “I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone, and furthermore I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned,” Joe Soptic says in the ad. The ad has been judged inaccurate by independent fact checkers and attacked vociferously by aides to the GOP presidential challenger. Obama’s campaign has refused to ask the group to pull the spot. Burton said the ad does not suggest that Romney was responsible for Soptic’s wife’s death. “We’re not saying Mitt Romney is culpable,” he told CNN.
Obama, meanwhile, told an audience in Colorado that “over the next three months, you will see more negative ads,” and he suggested the blame lies with outside groups backing his rival. “I mean, these super PACs, these guys are writing $10 million checks and giving them to Mr. Romney’s supporters,” he said.
Obama spoke as his campaign released another attack ad, questioning whether there was ever a year in which Romney paid no federal taxes. “We don’t know,” the announcer says, adding that Romney once “personally approved over $70 million in fictional losses to the IRS as part of ... one of the largest tax avoidance schemes in history.”
The back and forth took place as Romney looked ahead to a bus tour through four states in as many days, ending next Tuesday in Ohio. The itinerary renewed speculation that the trip might culminate in the announcement that the state’s Sen. Rob Portman would be the named vice presidential running mate on the Republican ticket.
Obama barnstormed through battleground Colorado more like a candidate for statewide office than for the White House, with stops in several parts of the state over two days.
After saying in Denver that Romney advocated policies on women’s issues straight from the 1950s, he switched topics to alternative energy. Campaigning in Pueblo, the president noted that his rival wants to end a tax credit that benefits the producers of wind energy, an industry that Obama said supports about 5,000 jobs in Colorado and as many as 37,000 nationwide.
“It’s time to stop spending billions in taxpayer subsidies on an oil industry that’s already making a lot of profit, and let’s keep investing in new energy sources that have never been more promising,” he said.
At issue is a tax credit that was originally signed into law 20 years ago by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and has generally enjoyed bipartisan support in the years since.
Legislation headed for the Senate floor would renew the tax break for existing facilities for one year, and also allow facilities that begin construction before the end of 2013 to qualify for a 10-year credit. The estimated cost is $12.1 billion over a decade, and the tax break has drawn criticism from some conservatives in Congress as a waste.
Romney sides with the critics, and in March he wrote, “In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy. This vision has failed.”
In the clash over television advertising, Romney appeared to lump together commercials aired by Obama’s campaign with those aired by Priorities Action USA. In remarks to conservative radio show host Bill Bennett, Romney aides said, he was speaking about the Priorities Action USA commercial when he attacked the president’s campaign.
By law, candidates’ campaigns are not allowed to coordinate with independent groups that are aligned with them.
But most political experts agree that the finer points of campaign law are lost on most voters, who tell pollsters they dislike attack ads yet are known to shift their views of candidates because of them.