Evan Vucci, Associated Press
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — A defiant Mitt Romney brushed aside more calls for the release of his tax returns on Wednesday and instead accused President Barack Obama of protecting his job at the expense of millions of unemployed Americans.
Intensifying his attacks as Obama focused on official meetings in Washington, the Republican presidential candidate told an overflowing Ohio crowd that the Democrat hasn't met with his jobs council in more than six months. In that time, however, Romney says Obama held 100 fundraisers.
"His priority is not creating jobs for you," Romney declared. "His priority is trying to keep his own job. And that's why he's going to lose it."
For the often-reserved Romney, the fiery rhetoric marks an aggressive shift as he struggles to answer questions about his business career and personal tax returns. The former businessman, who would be among the nation's wealthiest presidents if elected, has broken from tradition so far, having released just one year of personal income tax returns and promised to release a second.
But in speeches across four states this week, Romney has thrilled supporters with aggressive attacks on Obama and charges of "crony capitalism." At the same time, the Republican's campaign has teased reporters with news that Romney's selection of a running mate could come any day, forcing new attention on what may be the most important decision of the campaign so far.
National polls suggest that the candidates are locked in a tight race less than four months before voters weigh in. Obama was expected to return to campaigning Thursday for a two-day swing though Florida.
The growing war of words between the campaigns drew a response from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who took a rare step into the presidential race Wednesday.
Congress' top Republican told reporters in Washington that Obama's criticism of Romney's career and taxes are meant to distract from the administration's handling of the economy. Boehner said Obama's questions are an "attack on the private sector" and show that the president "doesn't give a damn about middle-class Americans who are out there looking for work."
The speaker also offered a warning for those, including fellow Republicans, who are calling on Romney to make more tax returns public. "The American people are asking, 'Where are the jobs?'" Boehner said. "They're not asking where the hell the tax returns are. It's not about tax returns, it's about the economy."
The warning didn't quiet the critics of Romney's stand on tax returns.
"If you're going to run for president, it's not necessarily comfortable but it has become a tradition and it's an important one, you make your tax returns available because you think the American people deserve that kind of transparency," Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Several high-profile Republicans joined the call for transparency, including Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who challenged Romney for the GOP nomination earlier in the year.
Perry, who released his tax returns dating back to 1992, said anyone running for office should make public as much personal information as possible to help voters decide. In an editorial, the conservative National Review also urged Romney to release more tax returns even though it agreed with him that Obama's camp wanted them for a "fishing expedition."
The Romney campaign offered a multipronged counter attack.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who features prominently in speculation about Romney's choice for a running mate, vigorously defended Romney's position.
"There is no claim or no credible indication that he's done anything wrong," Pawlenty said on "CBS This Morning."
- Victim of sexual abuse sues Boy Scouts of...
- Denver police shoot, kill teen who struck...
- Most K-12 students are now low income
- Private wells in California farm area show...
- California bars judges from Boy Scouts...
- House GOP moves toward possible lawsuit on...
- Residents want charges for Denver officers...
- Storm unleashes blizzard conditions on parts...
- California bars judges from Boy Scouts... 91
- Kerry: Violent extremism is not Islamic 29
- Victim of sexual abuse sues Boy Scouts... 19
- 'Potentially historic' blizzard... 12
- Some Republican presidential hopefuls... 12
- VP Joe Biden: More access to higher ed... 10
- Most K-12 students are now low income 10
- Denver police shoot, kill teen who... 9