By Jim Puzzanghera Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The campaigns of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney traded sharp accusations of lies and distortions Sunday as the race headed into its final month roiled by last week’s debate.
The Romney camp released a new TV ad accusing Obama of “not telling the truth about Mitt Romney’s tax plan.” It charged Obama with distorting the plan by asserting on the campaign trail and during Wednesday’s first presidential debate that the Republican candidate would raise taxes on middle-class Americans as part of a $5-trillion tax cut that mostly would benefit the wealthy.
Romney supporters repeated the charge on the Sunday talk shows.
“We know it’s not true what they’re saying about his tax plan,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who said during the Republican primaries that Romney was running a “fundamentally dishonest campaign,” came to his former opponent’s defense.
Gingrich said, “The charges on the tax cuts are just plain wrong.
“Mitt Romney walked over him,” Gingrich said of Obama’s debate performance.
But Obama aides and supporters pressed their assertions that Romney’s tax plan doesn’t add up and that he misled voters during the debate.
“It was a masterful theatrical performance. It was fundamentally dishonest for the American people,” Robert Gibbs, an adviser to Obama’s campaign, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“This was what he used to do in private business,” Obama adviser David Axelrod said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “You have the ‘closer’ at Bain Capital and the basic theory is say whatever you need to get the deal and that’s what he did that night.”
He said Romney was “dishonest in his answers” and delivered “a Gantry-esque performance,” a reference to the fictional, dishonest evangelist Elmer Gantry.
The Romney campaign sought to build on the momentum they believe they gained from the former Massachusetts governor’s strong performance in the first of three presidential debates.
“The debate was a reset of this campaign,” Ayotte said. She described it as “an opportunity for the American people . to debunk the myths created by the Obama campaign through false advertising about Gov. Romney.”
Republican Mike DeWine, attorney general in the battleground state of Ohio, said: “This race fundamentally changed Wednesday night in Ohio and across the country.”
“The president couldn’t defend the last four years,” DeWine, a former U.S. senator, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Maybe that’s not because he’s not a good debater. We know he’s a good debater. He couldn’t defend the last four years because you can’t defend it. You can’t defend not getting the job done.”
Democrats said Obama was not happy with his performance and would improve in the upcoming debates.
“I think the president understood that he hadn’t performed up to his own expectations pretty quickly after he got off the stage that night,” Gibbs said.
Axelrod said Obama “did plenty of homework” before the debate, but wasn’t ready for Romney distortions of his own positions.
“I think he was a little taken aback at the brazenness with which Gov. Romney walked away from so many of the positions on which he’s run, walked away from his record and that’s something we’re going to have to make an adjustment for in these subsequent debates,” Axelrod said.
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