As Mitt Romney headed to Pittsburgh, his campaign tried to regain the offensive, accusing President Barack Obama and his administration of cronyism in the face of the Obama team's unrelenting assault on Mr. Romney's business background and its demands for fuller tax disclosure by the Republican.
Mr. Romney will be in Irwin this afternoon for a rally at Horizontal Wireline Services. Later, he plans to appear at a major fundraising event at the Duquesne Club, Downtown.
After days of Democratic criticism of Mr. Romney's role with Bain Capital, the firm he once led, the former Massachusetts governor opened his week with an appearance on "Fox and Friends," bristling at his opponent's campaign tactics.
"The president has only one thing going, and that is constant attacks on me," Mr. Romney said on the morning show. "They're dishonest ... and I think the American people recognize that kind of politics as something of the past."
In an attack that would be echoed by his supporters through the day, Mr. Romney accused the administration of passing out government grants and loans to campaign contributors in connection with its economic stimulus program.
"I think it stinks to high heaven; I think the administration has to explain how it is they would consider giving money to campaign contributors," Mr. Romney told a Fox interviewer.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli elaborated on those criticisms in a conference call with reporters.
"The president famously said the private sector is doing fine," Mr. Cuccinelli said. "The political cronies for the president are doing fine ... the middle class is still struggling."
As an example of administration abuses, he cited the Solynda Corp., the solar products company that received hundreds of millions in stimulus funds before going into bankruptcy.
The Obama campaign was equally energetic in trying to provide a harsh welcome for Mr. Romney's latest foray into the Pittsburgh region. Ben LaBolt, the Obama campaign press secretary, underscored the previous attacks over Bain and the related suggestion that Mr. Romney had dissembled on the question of exactly when he left the firm.
"The more we learn about his time as a corporate buyout specialist, the more troubling it is," Mr. LaBolt insisted.
He referred to Securities and Exchange Commission filings from 1999 to 2002, spotlighted by The Boston Globe, that suggest, contrary to Mr. Romney's account, that Mr. Romney continued to lead Bain Capital during those years. "Romney either misrepresented himself to the SEC when he filed those documents, or he's misleading the American public," he asserted.
The GOP campaign has said that the SEC documents are pro forma filings and that he actually left Bain to rescue the Salt Lake City Olympics in 1999, before some of the instances of outsourcing and other practices criticized by the Obama campaign took place.
The Obama campaign also planned to greet their opponent with a new television commercial, to begin airing today, which will continue to goad Mr. Romney on the issue of his income taxes. Noting that he paid a tax rate of roughly 15 percent in the two years for which he has disclosed tax data, the spot accuses him of exploiting offshore tax havens, and says it "makes you wonder if some years he paid any tax at all."
It was all part of a flood-the-zone effort by the Democrats to counter the Romney appearance. In an interview Monday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, added to the criticism of Mr. Romney's failure to disclose more tax data. She was a somewhat surprising choice to deliver that message as she herself has been criticized for failing to air her tax information. Asked about the seeming discrepancy, she insisted that the standards and public expectations for Congress and White House disclosures weren't comparable.
The campaign also shopped local interviews with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a Pittsburgh native who was in the city to address the National Association of Counties.
Politics editor James O'Toole: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1562. First Published July 17, 2012 4:15 AM