By Alicia M. Cohn - 05/20/12 01:45 PM EDT
David Axelrod, senior strategist for President Obama's re-election campaign, said Sunday that the campaign "absolutely" repudiates any suggestion that Mitt Romney's Mormon faith would be a campaign issue.
"That's not fair game," Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley."
"We wish Gov. Romney would stand up as strongly, consistently, resolutely," Axelrod added, comparing the two candidates and slamming Romney for only "tepidly" rejecting the idea of attacking Obama with Wright. The super-PAC has since abandoned the idea following the outcry over the early leak.
"I repudiate the effort by that PAC to promote an ad strategy of the nature they've described. I would like to see this campaign focus on the economy, on getting people back to work, on seeing rising incomes and growing prosperity — particularly for those in the middle class of America," Romney said in an interview with Town Hall last week.
"The problem is you have to be consistent in your position, you have to be genuine and firm in your decision; instead he's sent out the wrong signal," Axelrod said, accusing Romney of "amplifying" similar attacks on Obama in the past.
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, argued in a separate interview on the same program that "it's the Democrats and Barack Obama that want the story out there." Priebus charged that Obama's campaign does not want the economy to define the election.
Obama's campaign sent out a fundraising letter publicizing the Wright attack plan to supporters last week, saying it "shows in vivid and gruesome detail what the president and all of us are up against."
Axelrod dismissed the letter as a promotion of the Wright idea, saying it was sent because the campaign is constantly battling being out-spent by the super-PAC money behind Romney.
Axelrod also continued to hammer Mitt Romney's business record, which has been the campaign's strategy since Romney became the apparent nominee. He said Romney's business record became fair game because it is "the only credential" Romney has offered for his candidacy.
"It behooves us to talk about what [Romney] did" as CEO of Bain Capital, Axelrod said. To that end, the campaign has released ads attacking Romney's business record at the venture capital firm as "vampire" capitalism.
"We believe strongly, [as] most Americans do, we honor success, we celebrate success, but we want everybody to have a fair shot at it," Axelrod said. "If you ask me, 'Was Romney good at making money for himself and his partners?' Yes. [But] if you ask me, 'Was that a good vision for building America's economy?' ...The answer is no."