Mitt Romney’s surrogates spent Sunday defending their candidate from the wave of fierce attacks from the Obama campaign, while the president’s surrogates relentlessly hammered away at the presumptive Republican nominee.
On NBC’s “Meet The Press” and CBS’ “Face The Nation” respectively, Romney’s top aides Ed Gillespie and Kevin Madden insisted that the candidate wasn’t making decisions at Bain Capital after 1999 despite claiming an official leadership role to the SEC. Beyond that, they did their best to dodge questions about Bain and instead keep the focus on the weak economy.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) said that “with these attacks, it shows that [Obama is] just a small politician and running on small-ball politics at a time when our country is facing grave, grave challenges.”
Republican Govs. Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa, both appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” argued that the Bain attacks won’t work.
“It’s pretty pathetic when the president of the United States … is spending his time attacking other people,” said Branstad.
“When you go to the polls and you decide in November, it’s going to be, who’s going to help me get my job back, who’s going to help me keep my job,” said Scott. “They’re not going to worry about some attack on Bain.”
On “Face The Nation” and CNN’s “State of the Union,” top Obama campaign officials Stephanie Cutter and David Axelrod stuck with their claims that Romney either lied about leaving Bain in 1999 or committed a felony by misrepresenting the truth in his SEC forms.
“If you’re signing an SEC document with your own signature that you’re the president, CEO, chairman of the board and 100 percent owner of a company, in what world are you living in that you’re not in charge?” Cutter said.
On “Meet The Press,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) accused Romney of running from Bain “like a scalded cat,” inviting him to release more tax returns.
The continuing controversy caused conservative luminary Bill Kristol and Alabama’s Republican governor, Robert Bentley, to call on Romney to release more than two years of tax returns in order to put the issue to rest. Romney has released his 2010 returns and has committed to releasing his 2011 returns, but not more.
Bentley, appearing on “This Week,” advised Romney to exhibit “full transparency.”
Meanwhile, Romney’s campaign released a web video accusing Obama of going excessively negative and abandoning “hope and change.” They’ve called the Bain accusations false.
The attacks hit a nerve with Karl Rove, the leader of American Crossroads who is heavily invested in helping Romney defeat Obama. The famed GOP strategist accused Obama of “gutter politics of the worst Chicago sort” and counseled him to stop suggesting that Romney may be a felon, arguing that it won’t help win independent voters.
Summing up team Obama’s rejoinder on “This Week,” Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and the president’s former chief of staff, told Romney’s team to “stop whining.”
“Mitt Romney said Bain Capital is his calling card for why he should be president,” he said. “He signed [the SEC filings]. He said chairman, he said CEO, sole shareholder, president. You can’t, as president of the United States, you can’t have a sign on your desk that says ‘gone fishing.’”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.