WASHINGTON -- In the clearest sign yet that President Barack Obama is gearing up for a run against Mitt Romney in 2012, David Axelrod on Wednesday laid into the GOP presidential hopeful for flip-flopping on key issues and raised questions about whether people can trust him.
During a conference call held for the sole purpose of bashing Romney, Axelrod, Obama’s top campaign strategist, took aim at the former Massachusetts governor for saying during Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate that he opposes the payroll tax cut extension being pushed by Obama as part of his jobs package.
Not only would the tax cut extension translate to $1,500 for 160 million families at a time of economic uncertainty, he said, but one of the “most appalling things” about Romney’s stance is that it recently changed.
“Just a few months ago, Gov. Romney was equally vehement in support of extending this payroll tax cut,” Axelrod told reporters on the call. “He switched positions on something that is so fundamental to strengthening our economy in a very difficult time.”
But Axelrod didn’t stop there: He unleashed on Romney’s economic plan, a proposal he said caters to the wealthy while providing average families with a measly $50 tax cut. He also accused Romney of pulling “a 180” on his position on China currency, and he wondered aloud how Romney can routinely knock health care reform when he has previously touted the Massachusetts health care system as a model for Obama's program.
Romney’s flip-flopping “is a pattern time and time again,” Axelrod said. “It’s consistent with a guy who ran for the governor of Massachusetts … as a pro-choice moderate who supported civil unions, and who supported environmental protections … to the guy you see today, who is hard after the Tea Party vote.”
The bottom line is that an economic plan built on a $50 tax cut “doesn’t inspire trust, that inspires questions,” he said. “And I think those questions are going to grow over time.”
Despite the all-out assault on Romney, and the unusual move of holding a call with reporters specifically to criticize one GOP presidential candidate, Axelrod dismissed the idea that Obama views Romney as his likely challenger.
“We’re not picking the nominee,” he said, “but [Romney] deserves to be scrutinized because he is stunningly inconsistent.”
Pressed further on why Axelrod was going so hard after Romney versus Rick Perry or Herman Cain in the 12:30 p.m. call, he quipped, “That’s the two o’clock call.”
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said Axelrod's attacks are just a distraction from the dismal economic situations playing out on Obama's watch.
“What we’re getting from this administration in response to the tanking economy are deflections and diversions from what really matters, which is President Obama’s failure to create jobs," Williams told The Huffington Post in a statement. "President Obama has turned America into an economic disaster zone. The only question is whether we can make it to the election of 2012 before Obama takes us all the way back to 1929.”
Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's traveling press secretary, took to Twitter to push back on Axelrod's criticisms.
"Mitt Romney believes this election is about saving America but @davidaxelrod thinks it's about saving Barack Obama's job," he tweeted.
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