WASHINGTON — The White House accused Republican Mitt Romney’s camp of blatant dishonesty Tuesday after he savaged President Barack Obama’s jobs record in a testy preview of a possible 2012 election showdown.
The row erupted after the Romney camp’s first television advertisement ripped an Obama quote out of context, making it appear the president feared that talking about the crisis-riddled economy could doom his reelection hopes.
Republican candidates meanwhile, just over a month before their first nominating contest, mustered in Washington for their latest debate, which was certain to feature new attacks on Obama’s foreign policy.
The ad by Romney, who many analysts believe will win the Republican nomination, was timed to air on television in New Hampshire as Obama visited the swing state to road-test the message he will take to voters next year.
It accused Obama of failing to honor promises made in 2008 to fix the economy and of presiding over the “greatest jobs crisis since the Great Depression.”
The spot also ripped an Obama quote — “If we keep talking about the economy we’re going to lose” — out of context.
The president actually made the comment in 2008 in quoting a strategist for his then Republican opponent Senator John McCain, but Romney’s ad made it seem as though he is referring to his own reelection bid.
“It is a rather remarkable way and an unfortunate way to start (the campaign),” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
“I mean — seriously? An ad in which they deliberately distort what the president said? I’m pleased to see numerous news organizations point out the blatant dishonesty in the ad.”
Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse branded Romney a “serial deceiver,” playing up a Democratic charge that the former Massachusetts governor lacks morals and principles.
And the liberal blog ThinkProgress later fired off an Internet ad, taking various quotes by the Republican out of context, but saying it complied to the “Romney standard of accuracy.”
“We should just raise taxes… there is nothing unique about the United States,” Romney was showed saying in cruelly edited soundbites.
Obama appeared in New Hampshire, which will hold a key early primary in the Republican nominating process in January, a day after a congressional supercommittee folded after failing in a high-stakes deficit cutting drive.
The deadlock played into Obama’s emerging general election strategy of running against a “do-nothing” Congress, and of charging that Republicans want to shield the rich by refusing to agree to rising taxes on the wealthy.
The US impasse will trigger Draconian automatic cuts to domestic and military spending come January 2013, unless lawmakers repeal that requirement or find an alternative deficit-cutting plan.
Obama said that Congress would get another chance next week, in the spirit of Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday, to vote to extend a payroll tax, which he said would ensure American families get to keep $1,500 extra next year.
“Tell them, don’t be a Grinch, don’t vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays.”
Midway through his speech at a Manchester High School, Obama was interrupted by hecklers apparently supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement, as they chanted “4,000 protesters have been arrested.”
The president paused and smiled but the hecklers were soon drowned out by rival chants of “Obama, Obama” from his supporters.
Ahead of the Republican debate on national security Tuesday, a new Quinnipiac University national survey of Republican voters became the second poll in recent days to find former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich had surged into the party race.
Twenty-six percent said they preferred Gingrich, compared to 22 percent for Romney, with other candidates well behind.
Romney, who has struggled to find favor among members of the Republican Party’s excited conservative base has occupied a similar level of support all year, as various other candidates have enjoyed a brief moment of fame.
Many analysts believe Romney however has the experience, funding, operational prowess and staying power to capture the nomination.