Frmr. Bush aide says both candidates "cheapening" economic argument

(CBS News) Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Mitt Romney is not getting credit for running a good campaign but added that both candidates are simplifying the debate over the economy.

"Mitt Romney's getting no credit for running what has been a smart, sensible campaign," Fleischer said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." "Keeping the focus on the economy when you have an incumbent who's going do everything he can not to talk about his failed record on jobs and debt."

When confronted with the possibility that the attacks might be working, Fleischer said the president's campaign hopes it's working. "I don't think they have any other card to play," the former press secretary to President George W. Bush said. "They wouldn't be doing this if they had policies they could run on or success on the economy."

The debate over outsourcing intensified Monday when the president said at a campaign stop in Ohio that Romney's policies would lead to the outsourcing of American jobs. Fleischer, however, said the argument has become overly political.

"When you look at it from an economic point of view," Fleischer said, noting that some jobs move overseas and some jobs move into the U.S., "the economy flows both directions, which is why both candidates are cheapening the economic argument here by trying to score political points."

"Both President Obama and Mitt Romney can fairly be accused of doing their share of outsourcing. President Obama sold Chrysler for pennies on the dollar to an Italian company," he added.

Charlie Rose pointed out that if Fiat did not buy Chrysler, Americans would have lost their jobs. Fleischer agreed that Fiat's purchase benefited the economy and said Rose proved his point: "If my attack on Chrysler and Fiat aren't valid, then all of President Obama's attacks on Mitt Romney aren't valid as well," Fleischer said, adding that the discussion over outsourcing is distorted for political expediency.

Fleischer also noted that Romney is running close with the president - only 2 points behind him in the latest Gallup poll. He also argued that the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney's record at Bain will have little impact on Election Day.

Polling respondents say it might make them less like likely to vote for Romney, but Fleischer said "it doesn't drive voter behavior, especially in 2012 when the economy is such and overriding, overarching issue."

Trying to compare President Obama's attacks to President George H.W. Bush's attacks on Governor Bill Clinton's ethics during the 1992 campaign, Fleischer said it didn't work then and it won't work now because people were focused, like now, on jobs and the economy. However, after being challenged by co-hosts Norah O'Donnell Charlie Rose, Fleischer noted that the current theme does offer a "fair comparison" of the economic debate.

"As governor of Massachusetts, he came in and had a state with a deficit turned it around and left with a surplus and a rainy day fund. He created jobs in Massachusetts as well," Fleischer said. "So that's a fair fight. That's a fight Mitt Romney wins, which is why the president doesn't want to engage in an actual fight over the status of the American economy today."

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