BOSTON — The Romney campaign on Friday launched a character offensive against President Obama and his allies, arguing that a recent ad by a pro-Obama super PAC crosses a line and diminishes the office of the presidency.
The ad from Priorities USA Action, which had not yet run as of Friday, insinuates that presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney was indirectly responsible for a woman’s death from cancer. Eric Ferhnstrom, a senior adviser to Romney, accused the Obama campaign of lying to the public about the ad.
“They’ve gone from what started as petty distortions and untruths to unbelievable exaggerations that diminish the office of the president and insult the American people,” Fehrnstrom told reporters during a briefing at Romney’s Boston headquarters. “I don’t think a world champion limbo dancer could get any lower than the Obama campaign right now.”
The Priorities USA Action ad tells the story of steelworker Joe Soptic, who lost his job and health insurance when the plant he worked at was closed by Bain Capital, the company Romney founded and used to run. In the ad, Soptic says his wife died of cancer because she was uninsured and put off doctor visits. But fact checkers have said that she was not diagnosed until five years after the plant closed and there was no evidence Romney had anything to do with her death.
Obama campaign officials initially said they did not know the specifics of the story. But after it was reported that Soptic had appeared in a previous Obama campaign ad and the campaign had shared the story of his wife with reporters back in May, the president’s team was forced to backtrack.
Fehrnstrom argued that by endorsing the message of the ad, Obama has “squandered one of the most vital attributes he [had], which is he was a different kind of politician who was going to change that state of our politics.”
To reinforce its new theme, the Romney campaign released a new ad called “America Deserves Better.” The ad opens with an ominous voice saying, “What does it say about a president’s character when his campaign tries to use the tragedy of a woman’s death for political gain?” The campaign did not say where the ad will run or how much money is being spent on it.
The Obama campaign dismissed the criticism as “faux outrage” and hypocrisy.
“Mitt Romney won the Republican primary only by tearing down each of his opponents with ruthlessly negative campaigning, including ads funded by outside allies,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. “His campaign has questioned whether the president understands what it is to be American, attacked his patriotism, and is currently running an ad that a former president and authors of the welfare-to-work legislation have called a flat-out lie. When the Romney campaign finally reaches the high ground, we look forward to greeting them there.”