CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - When candidate Barack Obama hosted a town hall meeting here four years ago, he decried the "predictable political attacks and demonstrably false statements" of his rival, Sen. John McCain.
"All of those negative ads that he's running won't do a thing to lower your gas prices or to lift up the debate in this country," Obama said at the time. "The fact is, these Washington tactics do the American people a disservice by trying to distract us from the very real challenges that we face."
Now, in the throes of a sluggish economic recovery and tight general election race, Obama appears to have resorted to some of the same tactics he once opposed.
The Obama campaign has been flooding Iowa and eight other battleground states with TV ads attacking Republican rival Mitt Romney for his financial investments and alleged ties to outsourcing.
Independent fact-checkers have scrutinized several claims in the ads as false and misleading; Republicans say they are an attempt to "distract" voters from Obama's record. The tone and tenor of the attacks arguably does not "lift up" the national political debate.
Over the past month, 76 percent of Obama ads broadcast on local and national stations had an "anti-Romney message," according to media monitor Kantar Media CMAG data obtained by Bloomberg News.
Of the more than 68,000 Obama ads that aired between June 2 and July 2, roughly 52,000 were negative, the group found.
Iowa media markets have been saturated with this blitz, included in every major, multistate Obama TV ad buy since the start of the campaign.
The latest Obama ad hitting Romney as an "outsourcer" of U.S. jobs to China was seen airing multiple times today on Cedar Rapids TV affiliates before the president's visit.
"Newly published documents show Mitt Romney's firms were 'pioneers' at 'helping companies outsource their manufacturing' to countries including China," the narrator says as Romney's face flashes on screen.
"Mitt Romney's not the solution. He's the problem," the ad says.
The claim is based on a June 21 Washington Post report finding that Romney's former private equity firm Bain Capital invested in some companies as "pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the U.S. to overseas call centers and factories."
But fact-checkers and the Post have said, contrary to the Obama ad claims, there's no evidence to suggest Romney had a direct, personal role in the outsourcing or that he would be an "outsourcer in chief" if elected.
"After reviewing numerous corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, contemporary news accounts, company histories and press releases, and the evidence offered by both the Obama and Romney campaigns, we found no evidence to support the claim that Romney - while he was still running Bain Capital - shipped American jobs overseas," concluded FactCheck.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Senior White House adviser David Plouffe today defied the fact-checkers reports, telling "Good Morning America" that "it's clear" Romney is "someone who practiced outsourcing."
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul called the charges part of an "unfounded character assault" that is "unseemly and disgusting."