Romney: McCain's Rhetoric Sounds Like Kerry, Kennedy

From CBS News' Scott Conroy:

TUFTONBORO, N.H. -- Mitt Romney continued to bring the heat against John McCain over the Arizona senator's record on fiscal policy. While hammering McCain for his vote against the Bush tax cuts, Romney dropped a pair of names that are anathema to Republican primary voters.

"And he explained why he voted against them," Romney said of McCain at a house party near Lake Winnipesaukee. "He said he voted against them because he didn't want tax cuts for the rich. That sounds like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry."

Speaking to reporters after the event, Romney tried to tone down his earlier criticism of his Republican rival.

"Senator McCain and John Kerry and Ted Kennedy are very different people, so let there be no confusion there," he said. "But his rhetoric about why he did not vote for the tax cuts was almost identical to that of John Kerry and Ted Kennedy — with whom he disagrees on most issues."

After the house party, Romney was asked by a reporter whether it was fair for him to condemn McCain for a vote the Arizona senator cast over five years ago when Romney himself has been fending off charges that he has changed his mind on key issues like abortion. Romney said that McCain also voted against the death tax.

After the press conference ended, Romney boarded the traveling press bus —something he had never before done during this campaign — to get a last word in on the issue.

"I haven't heard Senator McCain say he was wrong," Romney said on the bus. "I haven't heard him say, 'You know what, those tax cuts that I voted against, I was wrong. I should have voted for them.'"

McCain's New Hampshire Vice Chairman Chuck Douglas responded to Romney's criticisms today by pointing out that Romney didn't publicly back the Bush tax cuts while governor of Massachusetts.

"The facts are clear: Romney refused to endorse the Bush tax cuts he now claims to champion," said Douglas in a written statement.

However, Romney says he didn't come out in support of the president's plan because he, as a governor, didn't want to weigh in on a federal issue.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.