Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday invoked strong terms to repudiate a new super PAC-sponsored ad that has been widely criticized for racial undertones, saying, “I want to make it very clear: I repudiate that effort. I think it is the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign.”
He added, “I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the future and about issues and about a vision for America.”
But at a press briefing in Jacksonville, Fla., called specifically to address the uproar over the ad, Romney also took President Obama to task for his campaign’s recent barrage of harsh portrayals of Romney as a merciless corporate raider responsible for hundreds of people losing their jobs for the sake of profits at Bain Capital, the private-equity firm Romney once headed.
“I just think we're wiser to talk about the issues of the day,” the GOP’s presumptive nominee said. “The centerpiece of his campaign is quite clearly character assassination, and the centerpiece of my campaign is going to be my vision to get America working again and to provide a brighter future for our kids.”
Romney also defended his work at the firm, which made him a wealthy man, with estimated personal assets of $230 million, according to an estimate this week by Forbes magazine.
“My work at Bain was to try to make the enterprises more successful, to grow them,” Romney said. “There is this fiction that somehow you can be highly successful by stripping assets from enterprises and walking away with a lot of money. There may be some people that know how to do that. I sure don’t. Our approach was to make the enterprises more successful. The purpose of the president’s ads is not to describe success and failure, but to somehow suggest that I'm not a good person or not a good guy.”
The New York Times reported on Thursday that a conservative group planned to mount a campaign against Obama over his former ties to the Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright, who has made incendiary racial comments through the years. The $10 million plan was overseen by Republican media consultant Fred Davis and was commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade and the owner, with his family, of the Chicago Cubs. Ricketts recently spent $200,000 helping Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer win that state's GOP Senate primary this week.
“Joe Ricketts is a registered independent, a fiscal conservative, and an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, but he is neither the author nor the funder of the so-called 'Ricketts Plan' to defeat Mr. Obama that The New York Times wrote about this morning,” Baker said. “Not only was this plan merely a proposal--one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors--but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects, and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Obama campaign accused Romney of not expressing sufficient outrage after learning of the planned ad attack.
Campaign manager Jim Messina in a statement characterized the proposal as a “hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination.” Messina also said that the ad “revealed the appalling lengths to which Republican operatives and super PACs apparently are willing to go to tear down the president and elect Mitt Romney.”