President Barack Obama defended his blunt, frequently personal attacks on Mitt Romney as an "entirely appropriate" effort to highlight the choice voters face in November. The embattled incumbent told CBS News in an interview broadcast Monday morning that his campaign has run "a whole slew of positive ads."
"What is true is that there's sharp contrast, probably as sharp a contrast as we've seen, philosophically, between myself and Mister Romney," Obama told CBS. "Politics are about choices."
The president's campaign has spent months hammering away at Romney—on everything from his time at Bain Capital, to his refusal to release the customary number of years of tax returns, to his financial holdings in Switzerland, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands, to some of his verbal missteps on the stump. In a recent conference call, Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter even suggested that Romney might be a felon. The former Massachusetts governor has been no slouch in the attack ad department himself.
In the two-week stretch ending July 9, 89 percent of Obama's ads attacked Romney, while 94 percent of Romney's attacked Obama, Bloomberg News reported, citing data from Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising. Obama's campaign ran 37,022 negative ads over that period, compared to 13,962 for Team Romney.
Asked about the poisonous tone of Campaign 2012, Obama told CBS that his operation has "done a whole slew of positive ads that talk exactly about how we need to change our education system, how we need to change our tax code, how we need to rebuild America, how we need to promote American energy."
"Those just don't get attention in the news," he said. And "if you look at my stump speeches, I spend a whole slew of time—sometimes people say I talk too long because I'm outlining all the things that we want to get done." ( For reference, here is a stump speech the president gave in Glen Allen, Virginia.)
Turning to Romney, Obama told CBS "I think he's a patriot, I think he loves his family."
"But he has a particular theory he has a particular theory of how to grow the economy that has to do with providing tax cuts for folks at the very top, eliminating all regulations, and somehow that is going to generate solutions to the challenges we face," Obama said.
"I've got a very different approach. And I think it is entirely appropriate for the American people to understand those two theories, and the more detailed we get into what he's saying and what I'm saying, I think that serves this democratic process well," Obama said.
Romney accused Obama on Monday of running a "campaign based on falsehood and dishonesty," and charged that the president was trying to distract voters from his record.
The back-and-forth came amid fresh bad news about the economy: Retail sales fell for a third straight month in June, the first such stretch since late 2008, Reuters reported. The 0.5 percent drop reported by the Commerce Department stoked fears that the fitful economic recovery is sputtering.