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Romney adviser: Focus is on economy, not Obama video, ahead of debate

Mitt Romney’s campaign on Wednesday said its focus heading into the first presidential debate would be on the economy and not on a video touted by conservative media outlets showing President Obama criticizing the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Asked if the video was relevant during an interview on “CBS This Morning,” senior Romney adviser Kevin Madden said voters would need to make that determination.

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“Voters have to make that up, they need to look at that video and make up their minds on that individually. I think what’s more important to this debate right now are the president’s policies, are the president’s record over these four years,” said Madden. “That is going to be the most important topic on stage tonight.” 

The video, which surfaced on Tuesday, is of a 2007 speech by then-Illinois Sen. Obama delivering an impassioned speech to a mostly African-American audience and discussing the anger in the black community over the federal government’s botched response to Katrina.

The video was touted on the Drudge Report and conservative website the Daily Caller and was aired Tuesday night by Fox News’s Sean Hannity.

In an interview with Hannity, the Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson said that Obama’s speech was an appeal to “racial solidarity.”

Hannity called the tape a “bombshell.” Asked if he agreed with that assessment and if the campaign would use the Obama tape in ads, Madden on Wednesday maintained his focus on the economy.

“It was covered in 2007 and I think a number of folks are going to continue to cover it today. How they cover it in that context — a lot of that’s up to individual voters and whether they think that’s relevant to the conversation we’re having today,” Madden said.

“We believe as a campaign and I think Gov. Romney believes what’s most relevant are the president’s policies and how they are affecting the economy today, how they are affecting people’s bottom lines,” he continued. “That’s a much more relevant debate that we are going to continue to be focused on as a campaign.”

Madden said on the issue of tax reform, Romney would “offer a great deal of specifics on what he would do.”

The GOP nominee would “offer people who haven’t made up their mind yet a clear choice and contrast that with the failed record of the Obama administration,” he said. 

The Obama campaign has blasted the re-airing of the 2007 speech as a “desperate attack.”

“In a transparent attempt to change the subject from his comments attacking half of the American people, Mitt Romney’s allies recirculated video of a 2007 event that was open to and extensively covered by the press at the time,”  said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt in a statement to The Hill on Tuesday.

“The only thing shocking about this is that they apparently think it’s wrong to suggest that we should help returning veterans, children leaving foster care and other members of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent get training that will allow them to find the best available jobs." 

—Alexandra Jaffe contributed.