Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of running a campaign based on "falsehood and dishonesty" and brushed aside suggestions—including from some Republicans—that he should release more years of tax returns.
In a Monday interview with "Fox & Friends," the presumptive Republican nominee rejected a claim from Rahm Emanuel, Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff, who accused him over the weekend of "whining" about attacks on his record at Bain Capital.
"I think when people accuse you of a crime you have a reason to go after them pretty hard, and I'm going to continue going after him," Romney said, arguing that Obama's attacks are "misdirected" and "dishonest." "What does it say about a president whose record is poor that all he can do in his campaign is attack me?"
Romney slammed Obama for running a "campaign based on falsehood and dishonesty," insisting it won't have "long legs" this fall. Asked if he should have been more aggressive in pushing back against Democratic attacks on his record at Bain, the ex-governor argued that the "best offense is to look at the president's record."
"Wouldn't it be interesting, Mr. President, if you spent some time looking at your record," Romney said.
Obama's attacks "may work in Chicago," Romney added, "but it won't work across America."
Romney ignored suggestions, including from a growing number of conservatives, that he should release more than two years of his tax returns, arguing it would only give more ammunition to the Obama campaign.
"John McCain ran for president and released two years of tax returns. John Kerry ran for president, and his wife, who has hundreds of millions of dollars, she never released her tax returns. Somehow this wasn't an issue," Romney told Fox News. "The Obama people keep on wanting more and more and more, more things to pick through, more things for their opposition research to try and make a mountain out of and distort and to be dishonest about."
Romney insisted Americans care more about the economy and jobs than "attacks."
"The issue people care about is who can get the economy going again to help people have a brighter future," the presumptive GOP nominee said.
Romney's interview came as his campaign signaled a stronger pushback against the Obama campaign this week. On Monday, the campaign launched an attack on what it called Obama's "political payoff," accusing the president of working on behalf of campaign donors instead of the middle class.
In a statement to reporters, the Romney campaign accused Obama of "rewarding wealthy donors and administration insiders with taxpayer dollars." Among the examples they cited were federal loans to the failed energy company Solyndra, an example Romney has emphasized on the trail for months, and the Westly Group, a venture capital firm headed up by a major Obama donor whose portfolio of companies reportedly received tens of millions in economic stimulus money.
"Do you want to have an economy where political appointees in Washington, D.C., are making decisions about where investments go and where … taxpayer dollars is spent based on people's connections and how much money they raised in the last campaign cycle?" Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Romney said in a conference call with reporters. "Or do you want an economy that is driven by private sector investment decisions in allowing people to spend more of their hard-earned money and make decisions for themselves?"
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith called the Romney campaign's claims a "warmed over and false line of attack." "It's clear that Mitt Romney's campaign is desperate to avoid answering serious questions about his tenure at Bain Capital," Smith said in a statement.
After days of blistering attacks from Democrats, Romney aides also aimed to counter the perception that Obama's offensive is hurting Romney with voters. The campaign circulated a memo from Romney pollster Neil Newhouse that argued the race is closer than ever in spite of the Obama campaign outspending the Romney camp by millions of dollars in advertising. (The memo did not acknowledge the millions conservative groups supporting Romney's campaign have spent on the Republican candidate's behalf.)
"President Obama's campaign will never have a more substantial advertising advantage than it has had over the past few weeks, yet there is no evidence to suggest that the ballot has moved," Newhouse wrote. "If throwing the kitchen sink at Gov. Romney while leveraging a two-to-one ad-spending advantage doesn't move numbers for the president, that's got to tell you something about the state of the electorate."