WOLFEBORO, N.H. — Mitt Romney demanded Monday that President Barack Obama back away from his persistent attacks on Romney's record at Bain Capital, advising that it would be better "if you spent some time speaking about your record."
"What does it say about a president whose record is so poor that all he can do in this campaign is attack me," Romney said in a nationally broadcast interview.
Obama said an interview that he has run mostly positive campaign ads but said they have not been given much attention in the media.
In his interview on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," Romney was asked whether Obama should apologize for a series of statements and campaign commercials suggesting that Romney has not been truthful in his accounts of his record as head of Bain Capital, a private equity firm.
Romney responded, "I think when people have accused you of a crime, you have every reason to go after them pretty hard." He defended his business record but did not demand an apology from Obama. Romney also declined to make a fuller disclosure of tax returns than he has already committed himself to releasing.
The latest exchange of barbs came as Obama prepared for a town meeting Monday in Ohio, a critical state for both candidates this year, and Romney was poised to join Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on a fundraising trip.
Obama's campaign has been arguing that Romney's record at Bain Capital indicates that jobs were shipped overseas under his watch. That pitch has been given a lot of attention at a time when the nation's unemployment rate remains above 8 percent and millions are out of work.
Asked about this, Romney said he was "very proud of the record I had in my business career." He added: "I'd say to the president, wouldn't it be interesting Mr. President, wouldn't it be interesting if you spent some time speaking about your record."
"When millions upon millions of dollars are given by the Obama administration to the businesses of campaign contributors, that's a real problem, particularly at time when the middle class is really suffering in this country," the former Massachusetts governor said. "This is a tough time in America. But if you're a contributor to Barack Obama your business may stand to get billions or hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from the government. I think it's wrong. I think it stinks to high heaven."
Obama, in an interview broadcast on "CBS This Morning" Monday, was asked about the large number of negative ads that have been run against Romney by his campaign in recent weeks.
"If you look at the ads that we do," he replied, "first of all, we've done a whole slew of positive ads that talk exactly about how we need to change our education system, how we need to change our tax code, how we need to rebuild America, how we need to promote American energy So those just don't get attention in the news."
"I've got a very different approach," Obama said. "And the more detailed we get into what he's saying and what I'm saying, I think that serves the democratic process well."
Romney was asked about statements by Obama supporters, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, that he simply "stop whining" about the Obama attacks. He responded, "The best offense is to look at the president's record. ... He just hasn't been able to do the job he was going to try and do."
"The president has only one thing going and that is constant attacks on me," Romney said. "They're dishonest, they're misdirected and I think the American people recognize that kind of politics is something of the past. It may work in Chicago, but it's not going to work across America."
Romney refused calls by Democrats — and some Republicans — to release several years of tax returns. He said the Obama campaign was only looking "for more things for their opposition research to try to make a mountain out of and to distort and to be dishonest about."
Romney has released his 2010 returns and has pledged he will also release a complete return for 2011, but no more.
Republican Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama suggested at a governor's conference this weekend that Romney do a fuller release of tax reforms.
Romney's campaign said Sunday that Obama is willing to say anything to win a second term and should say he's sorry for attacking the Republican's successful career at Bain Capital.
"No, we will not apologize," the president responded, adding that if Romney wants credit for his business leadership, he also needs to take responsibility. The Obama campaign says that with Romney at the helm, Bain Capital sent thousands of well-paying American jobs to China.
Questions about Romney's tenure at Bain Capital, the fortune he earned there, foreign bank accounts and his refusal to release more of his tax returns have dogged the former Massachusetts governor. Romney insists he left the firm in February 1999 to take over the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, but documents indicate he was still in charge as late as 2001.
Romney's advisers, trying to explain the discrepancies between Romney's account and federal documents, offered fresh explanations to shift the campaign back to more comfortable ground.
"He actually retired retroactively at that point," Romney adviser Ed Gillespie said Sunday. "He ended up not going back to the firm after his time in Salt Lake City. So he was actually retired from Bain."
A second adviser, Kevin Madden, said Romney had no choice but to have his name listed on Security and Exchange Commission documents as he sought to transfer the company's leadership to partners.
"The reason that there is a document that had ... his signature is because, during that transition from 1999 to 2002 ... there was a duty to sign those documents," Madden said.
The exact role Romney played at the firm between 1999 and 2001 is important not only because critics have raised questions about his truthfulness, but also because Bain was sending U.S. jobs overseas during the period.
Documents on file with the SEC place Romney in charge of Bain from 1999 to 2001, a period in which the company outsourced jobs and ran companies that fell into bankruptcy. Romney has tried to distance himself from this period in Bain's history, saying on financial disclosure forms he had no active role in the company as of February 1999.
But at least three times since then, Bain listed Romney as the company's "controlling person," as well as its "sole shareholder, sole director, chief executive officer and president." One of those documents — as late as February 2001 — lists Romney's "principal occupation" as Bain's managing director.
Romney launched a rare, five-network interview blitz on Friday and insisted he was not involved with Bain during the time it sent jobs overseas and had no day-to-day responsibility for the firm.
"I had no role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999," he said. "I was an owner, and being a shareholder doesn't mean you're running the business."
That wasn't enough for Obama.16 comments on this story
"Mr. Romney claims he's Mr. Fix-It for the economy because of his business experience, so I think voters entirely legitimately want to know what is exactly his business experience," Obama told WAVY-TV in Portsmouth, Va., in an interview taped Saturday and posted on the station's website Sunday
"Mr. Romney is now claiming he wasn't there at the time except his filings with the SEC listing says he was the CEO, chairman and president of the company."
Gillespie appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CNN's "State of the Union. Madden spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation."