President Barack Obama's re-election campaign mockingly suggested Thursday that Mitt Romney's campaign has been so dishonest that if the Republican were Pinocchio, "his nose would be reaching from Virginia to Ohio." Romney's campaign immediately shot back, using the Democrat's own observation that sometimes his ads go "overboard."
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki's comments came when she was asked about Romney's charge, notably in an interview with ABC, that Obama would use the debates to "say things that aren't true."
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Psaki derided that statement as one of the "ridiculous, absurd and unproven accusations by the Romney team that are just meant to distract and are not based on any record of the last several months."
"If Mitt Romney were Pinocchio, his nose would be reaching from Virginia to Ohio with the number of lies and untruths in the ads that his team has put out," the spokeswoman said.
"To borrow a phrase from President Obama—it looks like the Obama Campaign is going 'overboard' again," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in an emailed reply.
"The Obama Campaign laughably argues that it takes fact checking 'very, very seriously' and stands by its false ads even though President Obama openly admits that they contain mistakes and inaccuracies," Williams said. "The President should fact check his own campaign team before he allows them to contradict his own assessment of his blatantly dishonest attacks again."
Psaki also worked to shape expectations about the debate, saying Obama has had less time than he'd hoped for to prepare "because of the constraints of governing" and crises like the situation in the broader Middle East. (Republicans this week rolled their eyes at the president's schedule in New York, pointing out that he found time to go on "The View" but not to sit down with leaders from important countries like Israel and Egypt.)
"Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has been preparing earlier and with more focus than any presidential candidate in modern history," she said. "Not John F. Kennedy, not president Bill Clinton, not president George Bush, not Ronald Reagan has prepared as much as he has."
And Psaki said there was "historical precedent" for the challenger to get "a significant bump" from the debates.
"We know there's going to be twists and turns and ups and downs in the campaign. We know we'll have them in the next 40 days," she said. Romney's aides "want the debate to be that moment for him. They fully expect that moment is going to be their turning point. We know people want to write a 'comeback kid story,' so we'll see if that happens."
What could go badly for Obama at the debates, the first of which falls on Oct. 3 in Colorado?
"He could fall off the stage," Psaki quipped.
"As much as I'd love to detail our fears, concerns and hopes, I know that it would go straight to our opponents," she said. "So we're probably going to hold back from previewing our strategy."