Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s camp seized on a Sunday morning interview in which Obama senior adviser David Axelrod appeared to suggest that the country’s economic recovery is not on the right path.

“The choice in this election is between economy that produces a growing middle class and that gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a chance to get ahead, and an economy that continues down the road we are on, where a fewer and fewer number of people do very well, and everybody else is running faster and faster just to keep pace,” Axelrod told host Chris Wallace during a contentious interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

Axelrod went on to argue that the country should “take that first route,” and later in the interview appeared to suggest that by “the road we are on” he meant “the same failed policies that were so disastrous in the last decade” and not the Obama administration’s current policies.

Still, the Romney campaign pounced on the comments and quickly circulated a Web video of the Axelrod interview under the headline, “Obama adviser David Axelrod makes the case for Mitt Romney for President.”

Whether or not Axelrod misspoke, the Sunday morning exchange points to a broader theme: an acknowledgment by both parties that the 2012 race will largely hinge on voters’ views of the economic recovery.

As Tax Day approaches, Wallace also asked Axelrod about Obama’s recently-released tax returns. The Obamas paid an effective tax rate of 20.5 percent on their $790,000 in earnings in 2011. Romney has not released his 2011 return, but in 2010, he and his wife paid an effective rate of 14 percent on their earnings of $21 million.

The rates for both presidential contenders are well below the minimum of 30 percent that Obama has proposed as part of his Buffett Rule for higher earners.

“I take it that he’s not going to contribute money to the Treasury to help with the deficit,” Wallace asked Axelrod of the difference between Obama’s 20.5 percent rate and his proposed 30 percent rate.

”Listen, well, that’s not the way we operate our tax system, okay?” Axelrod responded. “We don’t run bake sales. It’s not about volunteerism. We all kick in according to the system. ... Look, the fact that Mitt Romney pays 14 percent on $20 million income is not the issue. The issue is that the system permits it and he would perpetuate that and he would enhance it.”