President Barack Obama's re-election campaign manager on Thursday accused Mitt Romney of expressing insufficient outrage at a reported plan for a "hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination" to be waged by an independent conservative super PAC against the incumbent. Romney repudiated the blueprint in an interview released a short time later.
According to a copy of the plan obtained by The New York Times, the group hopes to highlight ties between Obama—who is referred to as a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln"—and his controversial former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "black liberation theology."
"This morning's story revealed the appalling lengths to which Republican operatives and SuperPacs apparently are willing to go to tear down the President and elect Mitt Romney," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.
"The blueprint for a hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination speaks for itself. It also reflects how far the party has drifted in four short years since John McCain rejected these very tactics," he said.
The Democratic strategist's message came shortly after his counterpart on the Romney campaign, Matt Rhoades, said that the presumptive Republican nominee would "repudiate" the politics of "character assassination."
"Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party," said Messina.
Romney, in an interview with Townhall.com, declared: "I repudiate the effort by that PAC to promote an ad strategy of the nature they've described."
"I would like to see this campaign focus on the economy, on getting people back to work, on seeing rising incomes and growing prosperity—particularly for those in the middle class of America," the former Massachusetts governor said.
Rhoades had seized on the report to score a few political points of his own, saying that "unlike the Obama campaign, Gov. Romney is running a campaign based on jobs and the economy, and we encourage everyone else to do the same."
"President Obama's team said they would 'kill Romney,' and, just last week, David Axelrod referred to individuals opposing the president as 'contract killers.' It's clear President Obama's team is running a campaign of character assassination. We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so," said Rhoades.
The splashy "kill Romney" quote came from an anonymous Democratic strategist, quoted in Politico, not from the Obama campaign.
Holly Bailey contributed reporting.
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