Mitt Romney attack ad misleadingly quotes Obama

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama CBS/Getty Images

Updated 12:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's first ad of the 2012 presidential campaign quotes President Obama out of context in what the Romney campaign is calling a deliberate attempt to show that Mr. Obama "doesn't want to talk about the economy."

In the ad, which goes up Tuesday in New Hampshire, Mr. Obama is heard saying "if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

But when Mr. Obama made that statement, he was actually quoting an aide to John McCain, his 2008 rival for the presidency. "Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose," Mr. Obama said.

In an email to Politico, the Romney camp said it used the out-of-context quote "intentionally."

"We used that quote intentionally to show that President Obama is doing exactly what he criticized McCain of doing four years ago," said Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom. "Obama doesn't want to talk about the economy because of his failed record."

Added Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho in an email to CBS News and other outlets: "Three years ago, candidate Barack Obama mocked his opponent's campaign for saying 'if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.' Now, the tables have turned - President Obama and his campaign are doing exactly what candidate Obama criticized."

The Obama reelection team hammered the Romney camp over the misleading quote, with campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt saying in part, "Just last week fact checkers scolded Mitt Romney for distorting a comment the President made about creating American jobs and now Romney launches a deceitful and dishonest attack rather than outline his own record or plans for the future."

The Romney ad, which ignores the former Massachusetts governor's rivals for the GOP presidential nomination, suggests Romney is already looking ahead to the general election despite polls that show him with less than 25 percent support among Republican primary voters. Polls released Monday and Tuesday showed Romney trailing Newt Gingrich by about four points nationally and holding roughly 21 percent support.

In New Hampshire, however, Romney holds a strong lead over his rivals, with a new Suffolk University/7NEWS poll showing him with 41 percent support, far outpacing second-place finishers Gingrich and Ron Paul, who had 14 percent support each.

The ad comes as Mr. Obama is visiting New Hampshire on Tuesday to push for Congress to pass an extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut.

Romney's campaign is reportedly spending $134,000 to run the new ad. It opens with ominous music and footage of Mr. Obama in New Hampshire in 2008 saying he is "confident that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis." Then comes white text against a black background proclaiming, "He Failed."

After about 25 seconds of sobering facts like "Record Home Foreclosures," culminating in the misleading quote, the music shifts becomes more positive as Romney promises a "smaller, simpler, smarter approach to government."

"Getting rid of programs, turning programs back to states and, finally, making government itself more efficient," he says in a voiceover. "I'm gonna get rid of Obamacare. It's killing jobs and it's keeping our kids from having the bright prospects they deserve. We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in. I'll make sure that America is a job-creating machine, like it has been in the past. It's high time to bring those principles of fiscal responsibility to Washington D.C. I'm Mitt Romney, and I approve this message."

On Monday, Romney said the adwas designed to remind people that "when he was candidate Obama, that he said he was going to get this economy going, he was going to bring people together, be a real leader for change in America."

"The contrast between what he said and what he did is so stark, people will recognize we really do need to have someone new lead this country," he told Fox News.

UPDATE: Romney senior New Hampshire adviser Tom Rath tells CBS News the ad is "exactly what we want."

"They were using McCain's words to make fun of McCain. And we're using the exact same technique," he said.

Pressed on whether it was unfair to lop off the top of Mr. Obama's comments -- which would show the president was quoting the McCain camp -- Rath said, "He did say the words. That's his voice."

He then suggested that the more people discuss the ad, the better it is for the Romney campaign.

UPDATE 2: White House press secretary Jay Carney, asked about the ad, responded, "I mean, what -- seriously?"

"I mean, an ad in which they deliberately distort what the President said? I mean, it's a rather remarkable way to start, and an unfortunate way to start," he said.

Full CBS News coverage: Mitt Romney

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