President Obama’s campaign has launched an all-out attack on Mitt Romney’s truthfulness to pivot the narrative away from his weak debate performance on Wednesday night.
Surrogates for the Obama campaign have challenged Romney on claims the Republican candidate made during the campaign, and on Friday, Obama's team released a series of five web videos lashing out at what they call “blatant falsehoods.”
"Mitt Romney didn't tell the American people the truth on Wednesday night," an Obama campaign official said. "He lied his way through the debate because he knows his ideas would hurt the middle class. Romney doesn't want to be held accountable for wht he's been saying for the last year because he knows that voters don't want what he's selling."
Ultimately, the hope is the effort — which attacks Romney on everything from his tax plan and Medicare to clean energy — will gain traction and hurt Romney as he makes his final arguments in the campaign and heads into the second presidential debate.
“I think it's pretty obvious it was a one-sided performance, and Obama is now looking to make the rebuttal he somehow managed to avoid making on stage,” said Shanto Iyengar, a professor of political science at Stanford University.
Obama aides say the president himself will more forcefully make those arguments both at upcoming campaign stops and when the two meet at Hofstra University for their second faceoff in just over a week. And they mocked Romney for a “weak relationship with the truth” during the debate.
“That’s why we’ve been pointing out what the facts are for the last two days,” Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign, told reporters on Friday. “If he’s unwilling to tell the truth about his record, tell the truth about his plans and the fact that he wants to put in place a $5 trillion tax cut for millionaires and billionaires and leave the burden on the middle class, then we’re happy to do the work for him.”
The campaign pointed to Romney’s mea culpa on Thursday night when he told Sean Hannity his comments about 47 percent of voters seeing themselves as “victims” who are “dependent on government” were “just completely wrong.” They say the comments serve as further proof that the Republican nominee is “playing fast and loose with the facts this week about his record.
“We know he’s going to say and do anything over the next 28 days and we’re prepared for that,” Psaki said.
Romney aides said Obama's charges were simply an attempt to deflect from his defeat in Wednesday's debate, and that they were confident the strategy would not work.
They also said the charges were hypocritical, pointing to a moment Thursday night where Obama aide Stephanie Cutter had admitted that the president's frequent assertion that Romney's tax cut totaled $5 trillion was not necessarily true.
During an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett, Cutter was challenged on the claim, with the host repeatedly pointing out that Romney had also promised to close some deductions that would lower the cost of his proposed tax cut.
Romney has refused to outline which deductions he would close, but has pledged his plan would be revenue neutral and not affect the middle class — a claim Democrats have repeatedly challenged.
“OK, stipulated, it won't be near $5 trillion, but it's also not going to be the sum of $5 trillion in the loopholes that he's going to close, so it is going to cost someone and it's going to cost the middle class,” Cutter said.
The Romney campaign said Friday that Cutter had undermined the core argument in the president's attack on the Romney tax plan by conceding it would not end up costing $5 trillion.
“Independent fact checkers – and even his own campaign – have admitted that President Obama is spreading falsehoods about Mitt Romney’s tax plan,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said. “It’s clear the president is willing to say and do anything to avoid talking about his own record of fewer jobs, declining incomes and record poverty.”
The Romney campaign also debuted a new ad entitled, “Facts are Clear,” that slams the president over his jobs record and deficits. In a statement Friday morning, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul looked to turn the Obama camp's attack on itself.
“While the Obama campaign relies on false attacks on Mitt Romney to distract from the president’s record that they can’t defend, Gov. Romney will continue laying out the clear choice in this election between a real recovery and 12 million new jobs under his plan or four more years like the last under President Obama,” Saul said.
New swing state polls from conservative-leaning Rasmussen and We Ask America of Ohio, Florida, and Virginia released Friday show Romney opening a slight lead in the states — a sign that Romney could be staging a comeback in the crucial battlegrounds, and likely the reason for the strong push by the Obama campaign.
But Iyengar warned that the post-debate push back from Team Obama might be too little, too late.
“There were quite a few people who were watching the debate who are not keeping up with the day-to-day now, so the audience for this post-debate spin is much smaller,” Iyengar said. “The debates are such - it's not really about what happened in the actual debate, it’s the media commentary post debate. The media commentary has been so one sided its a fairly major setback.”