Romney: "Of course" I would have attacked bin Laden

Republican Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at Lawrence University March 30, 2012 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Wisconsin residents will go to the polls on April 3 to vote for their choice for the Republican presidential nominee. Getty Images/Scott Olson

Updated 1:37 p.m.

(CBS News) PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Seeking to neutralize one of President Obama's recent arguments, Mitt Romney said on Monday that "of course" he would have ordered military forces to make the 2011 raid that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden.

Asked by a reporter during an appearance here whether he would have gone after the al-Qaida leader, Romney responded: "Of course." He was then asked if he would have given the specific order to kill bin Laden.

"Of course," he said. "Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order."

Mr. Obama's reelection team has sought to make an issue of what they consider the president's decisiveness on the issue compared with Romney's. They released a video, "One Chance," last week that opens with former President Clinton talking about the risks Mr. Obama took in authorizing the raid. The video then cuts to a question: "Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?"

Mr. Obama sees his strategy as a vindication of his initial position in 2007 when he declared: If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [then-Pakistani leader] President Musharraf will not act, we will." Both Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and GOP nominee John McCain mocked him for taking such a stance, calling it naive.

In his speech, Romney dinged the president for seeking to turn voters' attention away from the economy.

"Over these last several days, we have seen this president go across the country and bring up all sorts of extraneous items," he said. "Everything he can do to distract from the issue that people care about, which is a stronger economy, creating more enterprises, creating good jobs, and raising incomes. And making sure, therefore, that our kids coming out of college can find a job. That our kids coming out of high school can find a job, and we can be confident that the future for our children is better even than what we've enjoyed."

The former Massachusetts governor also accused the administration of adding too many government officials to enforce regulations, contending they were "just multiplying like proverbial rabbits and making it harder and harder for enterprises to grow and to understand what their future might be." That assertion drew an immediate denial from Mr. Obama's reelection team.

"Mitt Romney continues to distort the truth about President Obama's record of reducing burdensome business regulations," spokeswoman Lis Smith said. "While initiating an overhaul of the regulatory system that cuts red tape and will save businesses $10 billion over the next five years, President Obama has also approved fewer new regulations than President George W. Bush did during the same time period in his term. We're seeing the fruits of this leadership -- over 4 million private sector jobs were created over the last 25 months."

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    Sarah Huisenga is covering the Mitt Romney campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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