Romney says Obama just trying to 'hang onto power'Associated PressThe Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney said President Barack Obama is running a campaign driven by "division and attack and hatred" and called on him Wednesday to lift the tone of political discourse.
In a close and increasingly acrimonious race, Romney went on national television to say he thinks Obama is "running just to hang onto power, and I think he would do anything in his power" to remain in office.
They were some of Romney's harshest words yet against the president. He was interviewed on CBS television from the battleground state of Ohio, one of less than 10 key states that will help decide the November election.
Closing out a three-day bus journey across the Midwestern state of Iowa, Obama did not respond to the Romney attack, but accused his opponent in the Nov. 6 presidential election of "trying to sell this trickle-down snake oil before." Obama was introduced to assembled supporters by First Lady Michelle Obama who said it was good to see her husband after a five-day absence that she said seemed like a week.
Many business-friendly Republicans maintain that creating a better economic climate for top income earners and big corporations produces benefits that spread downward to lower-income workers.
Obama insists that Romney and his newly named vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan have laid out a program that reprises the economic policies of former President George W. Bush: big tax breaks for the wealthy and plans to cut away the social safety net for older Americans and the needy.
He blamed that economic philosophy for leading the country into the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, saying Republicans were responsible for middle- and low-income wages stagnating or falling since the turn of the century.
Before the president spoke in the Mississippi River city of Dubuque, Obama campaign spokesman Jennifer Psaki said Romney's comments seemed "unhinged."
The race, in which Obama holds a slim lead according to recent polls, has seen more heated exchanges since Romney announced Ryan as his ticket mate. The pick has seemed to energize both campaign crowds and the Republican Party's base, which has been wary of Romney's more moderate positions in the past as Massachusetts governor.
Even before Ryan was named, independent groups supporting the respective campaigns had been running increasingly provocative TV ads. One from a group supporting Obama suggested Romney was personally responsible for the cancer death of the wife of a man who worked at a steel plant that was bought and shut down by Romney's venture capital firm, Bain Capital.
Vice President Joe Biden campaigned Wednesday at a university in swing-state Virginia, declaring that Romney's selection of Ryan as running mate proved that the Republican ticket stands for the economic ideas championed by House Republicans, who have blocked Obama's legislative agenda since taking control of the lower chamber of Congress two years ago.
Biden said that for Romney, "the Etch A Sketch is gone." The jab is a reference to a Romney aide who suggested during the Republican primary fight that Romney could reset his strategy for the general election much like one would start a new picture on an Etch A Sketch toy.
Biden said Democrats are eager to run against Republican economic ideas, confident they can win despite persistently high unemployment and a sluggish economy.
A day earlier, Biden told a mostly black audience in Virginia that Republicans seeking less regulation of the financial industry wanted to "unchain Wall Street" and "put y'all back in chains."
Speaking later Tuesday, Biden said he had meant to use the term "unshackled." But he did not apologize, and he mocked the Romney campaign for showing outrage at his remark.
In Wednesday's interview, Romney said, "I can't speak for anybody else, but I can say that I think the comments of the vice president were one more example of a divisive effort to keep from talking about the issues."
Democrats see Romney's personal attacks on Obama's character as an attempt to dent the president's favorability ratings with voters, which lead Romney's in most polls despite a slow-growing economy and stubbornly high unemployment.
Associated Press writers Kasie Hunt in Columbus, Ohio, and Julie Pace and Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington contributed to this report.