The gloves come off in US presidential race

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are trading blows as the 2012 US presidential races gathers momentum. (M&G)

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are trading blows as the 2012 US presidential races gathers momentum. (M&G)

Romney planned to campaign in the Pittsburgh area on Tuesday, stepping up his criticism of Obama in a swing through Pennsylvania, a state that has proven to be a tough presidential battleground for the Republicans. Romney is accusing Obama of engaging in cronyism, citing federal grants and loan guarantees to alternative energy companies run by Obama backers and donors.

Obama is expected to sustain his offensive against Romney, claiming the Republican's tax policies would benefit the rich and cost jobs. His re-election campaign continued to draw attention to Romney's time at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded in 1984.

Obama planned to raise money from gay, Latino and big-dollar donors on Tuesday at fundraisers in Austin and San Antonio, with actress Eva Longoria, in Republican-leaning Texas, with an estimated haul of at least $5-million.

The Obama campaign has hammered at Romney's business record, especially discrepancies over when he departed as chief of the private equity firm Bain Capital that he co-founded in the 1980s.
Romney says his business record is his chief qualification to be president, and it is the source of his vast fortune, estimated at a $250-million.

"What does it say about a president whose record is so poor that all he can do in this campaign is attack me?" Romney asked in an interview on Monday with Fox News.

In a separate interview with CBS, Obama said he has run mostly positive campaign ads but said those are largely ignored by the media.

Declining full disclosure
In his interview, Romney was asked whether Obama should apologize for statements and campaign ads suggesting that Romney has not been truthful in his accounts of his record as head of Bain. Last week, Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, suggested Romney might be guilty of a felony if he misrepresented his position at Bain in filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

"I think when people accuse you of a crime, you have every reason to go after them pretty hard, and I'm going to continue going after him," Romney said.

Romney also declined to make a fuller disclosure of tax returns than he has already committed himself to releasing. He has released a federal tax filing for 2010 and an estimate for 2011.

Meanwhile, a top Romney aide floated the possibility on Monday that the candidate may name his vice presidential selection by week's end, raising the level of intrigue around what may be Romney's most significant decision before Election Day in November. But the timing was not certain.

Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom initially said that while Romney had not yet made his pick, the selection could be announced in the coming days. He later downplayed the remark, suggesting the decision could come any time between now and the Republican National Convention at the end of August.

Hotly debated
Campaigning in Ohio on Monday, Obama said Romney's proposal to free companies from taxes on their foreign holdings would displace American workers. The president cited a study he said concluded that "Governor Romney's economic plan would in fact create 800 000 jobs. There's only one problem: The jobs wouldn't be in America."

Romney's campaign cited campaign disclosure reports showing that the author of that article, Reed College economist Kimberly A Clausing, has donated money to Obama's campaign.

How to tax the foreign earnings of companies is a hotly debated topic. Corporate executives, including some who serve on Obama advisory boards, argue that taxing those profits hurts job creation by discouraging companies from reinvesting that money in the US.

In its counteroffensive, the Romney camp contended that Obama's energy department has steered loans and grants to several companies connected to the president's political supporters.

"This is a time when it's good to be a friend of the Obama campaign, because you might be able to get some money for your business. But it's not so good to be middle class in America," Romney told donors at fundraisers in Jackson, Mississippi, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

'Robust connections'
Obama campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki said the energy department's decisions "were made without regard to political connections." She said some grants have gone to projects with "just as robust connections to Republican campaigns and donors."

For all the tax talk, the past several days of the campaign have centred on Romney's former work at Bain Capital and whether he has been straightforward about the timing of his departure, a line of attack that Obama is exploiting to try to undermine public support in Romney's business credentials and trustworthiness.

Romney has said he left Bain in early 1999, shortly before it invested in companies that were pioneers of job outsourcing. Romney says he played no role in those transactions and decisions.

Two years later, Bain was still filing disclosure documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission that named Romney as the firm's CEO, president, sole shareholder and "the controlling person." At least one document in early 2001 said Romney's "principal occupation" was as Bain's managing director.

Bain says it took some time for disclosure forms to catch up with management changes at the firm. Romney says he was working fulltime on the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games starting in early 1999. Democrats say Romney has yet to satisfactorily explain the discrepancies. – Sapa-AP

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