Briefing reporters at Romney campaign headquarters, Fehrnstrom said that though a super PAC released it, he held the Obama campaign responsible for the ad, which independent fact checkers have called irresponsible and over-the-top.
“I don’t think a world champion limbo dancer could get any lower than the Obama campaign right now,” Fehrnstrom said. “In the process, Obama has squandered what has always been one of his key attributes — that he was a different kind of politician who was going to take us to a better place.”
Fehrnstrom said the Obama campaign has “gone from what started out as petty distortions and untruths to unbelievable exaggerations that diminish the office of the president and insult the American people.”
The ad features Joe Soptic, who was laid off from a Kansas City, Mo., steel plant that in 1993 was taken over by Romney’s investment firm, Bain Capital. Soptic says in the ad that he lost his health insurance during the takeover and shortly afterward his wife died of cancer.
In its response, the Obama campaign accused Romney of his own negative advertising.
“The Romney campaign’s faux outrage over an ad run by an outside group separate from our campaign rings extremely hollow,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said.
“Mitt Romney won the Republican primary only by tearing down each of his opponents with ruthlessly negative campaigning, including ads funded by outside allies. His campaign has questioned whether the President understands what it is to be American, attacked his patriotism, and is currently running an ad that a former president and authors of the welfare-to-work legislation have called a flat-out lie. When the Romney campaign finally reaches the high ground, we look forward to greeting them there.”
The president’s campaign aides have previously distanced themselves from the Soptic ad, strongly denying responsibility and noting that it does not control the ads and messages of Priorities USA.
But Soptic has worked with the Obama campaign to level attacks on Romney’s tenure at Bain. A few months ago he appeared as a surrogate on a conference call with reporters.
“This was a case where the Obama campaign has engaged not only in outright falsehood by accusing Mitt Romney of responsibility with the death of a woman, but beyond that, their campaign has deceived the public over what they knew about it,” Fehrnstrom said. “When you start running ads accusing your opponent of killing people, then you have lost credibility, and I think that’s where the Obama campaign finds itself today.”
A spate of national polls suggest the Obama campaign’s summer advertising onslaught against Romney may be working. But a second senior Romney adviser downplayed polls from CNN, Fox News and Reuters showing Obama widening a lead over Romney.