ABC News’ Arlette Saenz and Michael Falcone report:
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — The Democratic governors who gathered in this colonial village on Friday to meet with their fellow state chief executives evidently came armed with their Obama campaign talking points.
“I’ve never run for president, my daddy’s never run for president,” Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt., said. “But if my daddy did run for president and I ran for president, I’d do what my daddy did.”
Shumlin was teeing off on Mitt Romney’s refusal to release more than one year of his tax returns so far during the election cycle.
“Mitt’s daddy released eleven years of tax returns,” the Vermont Democrat said of the disclosure made by George Romney during his 1968 presidential run. “We can’t figure out why Mitt can’t follow his daddy.”
(Actually, the elder Romney released a dozen years of tax returns).
Shumlin’s comments, on the opening day of the annual National Governors Association Conference, reflected a concerted effort by Democratic governors to use the spotlight to underscore some of the recent criticism of Romney leveled by President Obama and his allies.
At a three-day meeting meant to promote bipartisanship and in-depth discussion of policy issues like education, health care and economic development, election-year politics loomed large.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, managed to take reporters on a multi-country tour of Romney’s offshore bank accounts.
“Instead of the dollars that he accumulated creating more jobs for the United States they went to fatten Swiss bank accounts,” O’Malley said at a news conference on Friday. “They went to secret accounts in the Cayman Islands or to shell corporations in the Bahamas.”
But O’Malley did not stop there.
“His personal story, his personal choices in business directly undercut the credibility, the efficacy, the believability of their fairytale economics that if you just allow the wealthiest one percent to avoid more in taxes, that they’re going to create jobs here at home,” he noted.
Gov. Dan Malloy, D-Conn., accused Romney and his Republican allies of “distorting the president’s position” with their own election-year messaging.
“That’s really negative, that’s really bad,” Malloy said. “That’s what they do.”
At a morning press conference held in the historic Hall of the House of Burgesses, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who also serves as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, chastised the Obama campaign for running ads he deemed to be “not fair” and “not honest” since they tie Romney to a period at Bain Capital during which he says he was not involved with the day-to-day operations of the firm.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat who serves as the vice chair of the National Governors Association, countered McDonnell saying Romney’s entire record — from his relationship to Bain to his time as governor of Massachusetts, which he categorized as “not a great record when it comes to job creation” — is “fair game.”
But while tensions momentarily ran high between McDonnell and Markell, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, sought to play peacemaker, joking that although this year’s presidential race was on everybody’s mind, he had already turned his attention to 2016.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” Heineman said. “I’m working with these two guys to develop a bipartisan team that’s going to run for president.”