Mitt Romney's campaign continued to point fingers at President Barack Obama's campaign for a controversial ad that was actually released by the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action. An ad released on Friday by the Romney campaign characterizes the use of a woman's cancer-related death to describe the impact of Romney's past business practices as "scraping bottom" and "disgusting."
"What does it say about a president's character when his campaign tries to use the tragedy of a woman's death for political gain?" the narrator asks at the beginning of the ad, titled "America Deserves Better."
In fact, Priorities USA Action, the super PAC that chronicled the tragic story of Joe Soptic and his wife, is an outside group that by law does not coordinate with the Obama campaign.
The new Romney spot then pivots to the Obama campaign's acknowledgment that Soptic also appeared in one of its ads, after Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki had initially denied having any knowledge of Soptic's story while trying to distance the Obama campaign from the Priorities USA Action ad.
Since its release, the now-infamous commercial has been at the center of a firestorm for linking the death of steel plant worker Soptic's wife and the Soptics' lack of health insurance with the decisions made by private equity firm Bain Capital, once led by Romney. A number of reports have pointed out that Soptic's wife actually died in 2006 -- years after the GST Steel plant where Soptic worked was shut down. The super PAC has maintained that its intention was not to blame Romney for the woman's illness or death, but to show more generally how ordinary Americans have suffered on account of his business decisions.
Just as much attention this week has been focused on the accuracy of the Romney campaign's own attack against the president on welfare reform waivers.
After days of press releases and conference calls to see who can cite the most fact-checkers, the sparring appears to have culminated on Friday in a string of ads responding to ads ... responding to ads.
Senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom even insisted on Friday that his candidate's campaign held the "high ground" in an increasingly negative contest.
"We are betting that a substantive campaign, conducted on the high ground, and focused primarily on jobs and the economy, will trump a campaign that is designed to appeal to our worst instincts," Fehrnstrom told reporters.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith was quick to hit back, saying that Romney defeated his opponents in the GOP primaries by engaging in "ruthlessly negative campaigning, including ads funded by outside allies."
"When the Romney campaign finally reaches the high ground, we look forward to greeting them there," Smith added.
Also on Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney dodged questions about why the president won't condemn the Priorities USA Action ad for being antithetical to the type of politics he has promoted.
"We do not control third-party ads," Carney said during the daily briefing. "What this president is focused on is what he can do as president and what his message is about -- what our economy can be and should be -- as he campaigns around the country."
Carney instead took aim at the Romney campaign for releasing an ad that is "categorically false and blatantly dishonest" about Obama's policy on welfare assistance. The difference between the two ads, he said, is that the Romney campaign spent "millions and millions of dollars" on its spot, while the Obama campaign spent "zero" on the ad put out by Priorities USA Action.
Carney added that he didn't know if the president had actually seen either the Priorities USA Action spot or the Romney campaign ad.
Jen Bendery contributed reporting.
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