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Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama just trying to 'hang onto power'

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 15 2012 12:52 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Republican Mitt Romney dug in Wednesday on his charge that President Barack Obama's campaign is driven by "division and attack and hatred," criticism aimed at cutting into Obama's likeability and personal appeal with voters.

In some of his harshest words yet against the president, Romney said Obama was "running just to hang onto power, and I think he would do anything in his power" to remain in office. Romney's comments escalated an already acrimonious campaign fueled by negative and sometimes false advertisements, as well as personal insults from the candidates and their surrogates.

Obama's campaign said Romney's fresh assertions seemed "unhinged."

The president, campaigning Wednesday in Iowa, did not respond directly to Romney's criticism. But first lady Michelle Obama, who joined the president on the final leg of his three-day bus trip through the Midwestern battleground, offered a vigorous defense of her husband's character as she introduced him to the crowd.

"It all boils down to who you are and what you stand for," Mrs. Obama said. "We all know who my husband is, don't we? And we all know what he stands for."

The president sought to refocus the day's debate on GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's proposed Medicare overhaul, which Democrats say could give them an opening with senior citizen voters. Romney and Ryan have been aggressive in going after Obama on that issue, saying he raided more than $700 billion from the Medicare trust fund to help pay for his health care overhaul.

Obama said Romney and Ryan's criticism was "dishonest."

"They are just throwing everything at the wall to see if this sticks," Obama said. "I have strengthened Medicare."

The latest rhetorical scuffle between the campaigns erupted Tuesday after Vice President Joe Biden told a largely black audience in Danville, Va., that Republicans would seek to "unchain Wall Street" and "put y'all back in chains" by loosening Wall Street regulations.

Biden later said he had meant to use the term "unshackled." But he did not apologize, and he mocked the Romney campaign for showing outrage.

In his interview Wednesday on "CBS This Morning," Romney said: "I can't speak for anybody else, but I can say that I think the comments of the vice president were one more example of a divisive effort to keep from talking about the issues."

Biden did not repeat the attention-grabbing line Wednesday during a campaign event in Blacksburg, Va.

Romney's onslaught comes as polls show Obama with a narrow lead less than three months before the Nov. 6 election. On Saturday, Romney named Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, a pick aimed at energizing his party's conservative base.

Now Romney, straying from his campaign's efforts to stay singularly focused on jobs and the economy, is targeting Obama's greatest strength — his likeability.

Every major poll in the past two months has found Obama's favorability rating in positive territory, while Romney's languishes at about even or worse and has deteriorated in some recent surveys.

Obama's Iowa bus tour was aimed in part at maintaining his likeability in the midst of the bruising campaign. He made a trip to the Iowa State Fair, joined locals at a bar for a beer and dropped by a high school to wish teachers good luck in the new school year. The first lady's presence on Wednesday, and her warm and teasing rapport with her husband, also aided in the effort.

Some of Romney's efforts to chip away at Obama's likeability have focused on negative ads run by the president's campaign and a super political action committee supporting him. Priorities USA Action ran a commercial suggesting Romney was personally responsible for the death from cancer of the wife of a man who worked at a steel plant that was bought and subsequently shut down by Romney's venture capital firm, Bain Capital.

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