Sen. Ayotte: Obama attacks show he’s ‘just a small politician’

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a possible Mitt Romney running mate, came to the GOP candidate’s defense Sunday, calling President Obama “a small politician” because of his attacks on Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital.

“Mitt Romney's addressed these attacks. They're false and misleading,” said Ayotte, on ABC’s “This Week.”  

“What's most disappointing about this is the president, who ran as an inspirational leader, look where we are with him right now,” she continued. “Unfortunately, with these attacks, it shows that he's just a small politician and running on small-ball politics at a time when our country is facing grave, grave challenges.”

Ayotte has been the focus of speculation as a contender on Romney’s short list for vice president and has been a prominent surrogate for his campaign, joining him last month on the stump.

The Obama campaign has hit Romney hard on his record running the private equity firm Bain, claiming he played a role in the offshoring of U.S. jobs and demanding more tax returns after media reports detailing his offshore financial holdings. 

On Sunday, Ayotte said Romney’s disclosures of his 2010 tax returns and estimates of 2011 taxes were enough for voters to scrutinize his finances. 

“He's disclosed what he has to under federal law, but he's also gone beyond that. He's released his 2010 tax returns. He's going to release his 2011 tax returns,” she said. 

Ayotte said voters would not be distracted by the Obama campaign’s focus on Bain.

“The economy and jobs are going to decide this election, and his record on that is abysmal,” she said of Obama.

Ayotte also rejected Democratic suggestions that Romney may have misled the Securities and Exchange Commission over when he left Bain.

Romney says he left the firm in 1999 to help manage the Salt Lake City Olympics organizing committee, yet documents filed with the SEC suggested he had a role at beyond that year. Democrats seek to tie Romney to companies owned by Bain which laid off workers after 1999, in decisions Romney says he had no part in.

“We all know that in 1999 he was working 16 hours a day to turn the Olympics around, which he did a great job with. So he's addressed it. He wasn't running Bain Capital then. He was working to turn our Olympics around,” said Ayotte. “It's the leadership that he showed at the Olympics and also as a strong governor. That's what he's going to bring to the White House to turn our economy around.”

Ayotte was also asked about another source of vice presidential speculation: Former Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice. 

“She's very qualified. She's excellent. She's tested,” said Ayotte, when asked if Rice would be a good selection for Romney.