Mitt Romney appears to be seeking an agreement with the Obama campaign to remove his business record from the conversation, a sign that the repeated attacks on his tenure at private equity firm Bain Capital may be getting under the presumptive Republican presidential candidate's skin.
NBC's First Read has the following excerpt from Romney's interview with Chuck Todd, conducted Thursday as part of a forthcoming documentary on MSNBC, in which he said he would like a pledge with Obama barring "personal" attack ads:
“[O]ur campaign would be-- helped immensely if we had an agreement between both campaigns that we were only going to talk about issues and that attacks based upon-- business or family or taxes or things of that nature."
“[W]e only talk about issues. And we can talk about the differences between our positions and our opponent's position.” Romney said of his own campaign: “[O]ur ads haven't gone after the president personally. … [W]e haven't dredged up the old stuff that people talked about last time around. We haven't gone after the personal things.”
In response, First Read asked, "Is Romney really saying that scrutinizing his business record -- which he has held up as one of his chief qualifications to be president -- is personal?"
The comments come in the wake of a controversial ad by pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action, linking a woman's cancer-related death to the decision by Bain Capital, once led by Romney, to close down a steel plant. The ad posits that the woman's husband, who is featured in the ad, lost his job and health insurance and was therefore unable to provide health care for his wife when she needed it the most.
While that ad did not come from the Obama campaign itself, the president's reelection team has also hammered away at Romney's business record, branding him an "Outsourcer-in-Chief," and releasing numerous attack ads focused on Romney's time at Bain Capital.
To date, Romney has insisted that the attacks are personal, but the interview with MSNBC would be the first time the former Massachusetts governor has requested the Obama campaign to stop talking about his business record -- as he appears to imply in the quote.
But Romney himself has touted that same record throughout his candidacy, frequently making the case that his private enterprise background would enable him to serve as a better commander-in-chief than President Barack Obama.
Romney's remarks also ignore the fact that the super PACs and outside groups backing his presidential bid and other Republicans have been no less negative than those aligned with Obama and Democrats.
The issue of negative campaigning notwithstanding, recent polling has indicated that voters have an increasingly unfavorable opinion of Romney -- a sign that the scrutiny around his tax returns, and attacks on his background at Bain Capital, are leaving their mark on voters in key swing states across the country.
When The Huffington Post reached out to the Romney campaign for comment, campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul did not clarify if Romney was, in fact, asking Team Obama to drop the business talk.
"The governor was expressing his view that he hopes we can have a campaign focused on the issues rather than one of desperation and lies as we’ve seen from the Obama campaign," Saul responded in an email.
"Politically, I think that would help him," Paul said in a interview with <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0712/78599.html#ixzz20w7ycTBE" target="_hplink">Politico</a>. "In the scheme of things politically, you know, it looks like releasing tax returns is what the people want."
"I have no idea on why he has restricted the number to this point," <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57474352/pressure-mounts-on-mitt-romney-to-release-more-tax-returns/?tag=socsh" target="_hplink">Lugar said</a>.
"I don't know why... he didn't get all of this out and tidy up some of his offshore accounts and all the rest," Will said on ABC's "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/15/george-will-mitt-romney-bain_n_1674513.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HP%2FPolitics+(Politics+on+The+Huffington+Post)" target="_hplink">This Week</a>." "He's done nothing illegal, nothing unseemly, nothing improper, but lots that's impolitic."
"He should release the tax returns tomorrow. It's crazy," Kristol said on "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/15/mitt-romney-tax-returns_n_1674325.html" target="_hplink">Fox News Sunday</a>." "You gotta release six, eight, 10 years of back tax returns. Take the hit for a day or two."
"I just believe in total transparency," Bentley told <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/07/gop-governor-calls-on-mitt-romney-to-release-additional-tax-returns-and-show-he-has-nothing-to-hide/" target="_hplink">ABC News</a>. "In fact, I was asked today that question -- do you think that Governor Romney should release his tax returns? And I said I do. I said, I release my tax returns. I may be the only public official in Alabama that does, but I release mine every year and I just believe that people should release their tax returns. And if you get them out and just get past that, it just makes it so much easier."
When asked on "<a href="http://www.nationaljournal.com/2012-presidential-campaign/barbour-romney-should-release-more-tax-returns-20120710" target="_hplink">The Situation Room</a>" if Romney should release more returns, Barbour said, "I would. But should it be an issue in the campaign? I don't think it amounts to diddly."
"If there's nothing there, there's no 'there' there, don't create a there,'" Steele said on MSNBC.
"Tax returns the next problem. Releasing returns under pressure: more weakness, more pain," Frum <a href="https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/224509505973661696" target="_hplink">tweeted</a>.