By Justin Sink
Mitt Romney sought to portray President Obama as desperately looking for "a twig to hold on to" with the economy while campaigning in swing-state Colorado on Tuesday.
But as the Republican challenger renewed focus on economic issues, his presidential campaign was besieged with questions about Donald Trump's controversial "birther" comments.
"His campaign these days is trying to find a twig to hold on to ... things are getting a little better in this country, but it's not because of his policies, it's in spite of them," the former Massachusetts governor said.
The latest major indicator on the state of the economy will come Friday with the release of the May jobs report. After showing signs of strong growth during the first few months of the year, job creation in the private sector has cooled.
In an interview earlier Tuesday morning with Fox News, Romney said that his economic message was his best selling point in battleground states like Colorado, which Obama won in 2008.
“I can make the economy better. I can get more jobs in America. I can get competition between employers for jobs, rising wages. I understand how the economy works," Romney said.
“The president wants to make this a personal-attack campaign. He's going after me as an individual. Look, I'm an American. I love this country. I have experience in the economy that's going to help me get good jobs for Americans so we can be secure again,” Romney said.
Meanwhile, Romney's campaign is fending off questions over the candidate's support for Trump, the reality television host who flirted with a presidential campaign last year. The real estate mogul ignited a firestorm of criticism over the weekend by doubling down on his skepticism that the president was born in the United States. He will appear with Romney at a fundraiser in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
“I’ve been known as being a very smart guy for a long time,” Trump told CNBC Tuesday. “I don’t consider myself birther or not birther, but there are some major questions here that the press doesn’t want to cover. Now, if that were somebody else they’d be covering it and they’d be throwing people out of office, but they don’t want to cover it.”
The Obama campaign and some prominent conservative critics, including columnist George Will, have demanded that Romney distance himself from Trump, but the presumptive Republican nominee has thus far stood by the candidate.
“Governor Romney has said repeatedly that he believes President Obama was born in the United States. The Democrats can talk about Donald Trump all they want — Mitt Romney is going to talk about jobs and how we can get our economy moving again," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.
A poll released Tuesday in advance of Romney's campaign event showed the president with a 4-point lead in Colorado, which has nine electoral votes.
One of the Obama campaign's paths to 270 electoral votes is centered on Colorado. If Obama can hold Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, he could lose Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana and Virginia but still win reelection, provided he loses no other states he won in 2008.