Battle for the White House gets nasty

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney
President Barack Obama, left, and Mitt Romney.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer,AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

(CBS News) The battle for the White House got especially nasty on Tuesday, with both sides throwing haymakers at each other and scrutinizing each other's words very closely.

In in Chillicothe, Ohio Tuesday night, an amped-up Mitt Romney unleashed his harshest attacks against President Barack Obama to date, "Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago."

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee accused the president of running a dirty and petty campaign. "He demonizes some. He panders to others," Romney said. "His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then cobble together 51 percent of the pieces."

"Gov. Romney's comments tonight seem unhinged" was the retort from the Obama campaign, and the president, speaking in Iowa, trained most of his fire on Romney's tax proposals. "We do not need more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans," Mr. Obama said. "We need to give tax relief to working families who are trying to raise their kids, keep them healthy, send them to college."

Joe Biden clarifies "in chains" remark

Vice President Joe Biden's comments Tuesday also came under some scrutiny. While speaking to a crowd in Danville Va., that included hundreds of African-Americans, he made an analogy that reminded some of slavery: "Romney wants to, he said in the first 100 days he's going to let the big banks once again write the rules. Unchain Wall Street. They're going to put you all back in chains."

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The Romney team quickly called it evidence of a "desperate campaign." Speaking in Ohio, Romney said, "His campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency."

Former New York mayor and one-time presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani took things to another level when he suggested Biden might be mentally unfit for office.

"There's a real fear if, God forbid, he ever had to be entrusted with the presidency, whether he really has the mental capacity to handle it," Giuliani said on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report." "I mean, this guy just isn't bright. He's never been bright. He isn't bright. And people think, 'Well, he just talks a little too much.' Actually he's not very smart."

(CBS News political director John Dickerson discussed Joe Biden's remarks on "CBS This Morning." Click on the video below for that discussion.)

The vice president later told another Virginia audience that he had been trying to play off a phrase Republicans often employ, about unshackling business from regulation. Biden said, "I'm told when I made that comment earlier today in Danville, Va., the Romney campaign put out a tweet, you know tweets, and went on the air, went on the airwaves saying 'Biden's he's outrageous."

All of this kind of overshadowed a rather substantive war of words between the president and Romney over energy policy. In Iowa, the president has been touting the potential of wind energy while Gov. Romney has been stumping in Ohio in favor of reducing regulations on coal producers.

  • Nancy Cordes
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' chief White House correspondent.