'A New Low'? Campaign Rhetoric Turns Ugly

The Obama and Romney campaigns get nasty as race heats up.

ByABC News
August 14, 2012, 6:27 PM

Aug. 14, 2012 -- The shine came off this newly minted campaign of "big ideas" today, as the usual political sparring between the Obama and the Romney camps descended into a fit of name-calling and ginned-up outrage.

Paul Ryan joined the fray during a rally in Colorado, accusing President Obama of trying to "distort" the truth about Ryan's budget overhaul proposals and "divide" the nation.

"From hope and change to attack and blame," Ryan said. "He's speaking to people as if we're divided from one another, not unified."

Those words came just hours after the man whose job he's trying to take, Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning in Virginia, had said that Mitt Romney's plan would "let the big banks again write their own rules."

"Unchain Wall Street!" Biden hollered, his face turning red. Then, after a beat, he warned the audience, "They're going to put y'all back in chains."

Biden later sought to walk the statement back a bit, pointing out Paul Ryan used similar terminology to describe government regulation in 2011.

But he attacks continued into the evening: "This is what an angry and desperate Presidency looks like," Romney said Tuesday night in Ohio.

Earlier, Romney aide Andrea Saul Biden's comments "a new low... Whether it's accusing Mitt Romney of being a felon, having been responsible for a woman's tragic death or now wanting to put people in chains, there's no question that because of the president's failed record he's been reduced to a desperate campaign based on division and demonization."

Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter snapped back, calling the comments "hypocritical, particularly in light of their own candidate's stump speech questioning the president's patriotism."

Biden, she said, was simply underlining "the need to 'unshackle' the middle class. Today's comments were a derivative of remarks [made by Republicans regarding the private sector], describing the devastating impact of letting Wall Street write its own rules again would have on middle class families."

While their campaigns exchanged talking points, the candidates were talking, too, about energy policy to heavily-invested crowds in Iowa and Ohio, respectively.

Romney was in coal country -- Beallsville, Ohio – where he declared this "a time for truth."

"If you don't believe in coal, if you don't believe in energy independence for America, then say it," Romney said, before turning his attention to Obama. "If you believe that the whole answer for our energy needs is wind and solar, say that. Because I know he says that to some audiences out west."

During his last State of the Union address, Obama promised investment in a wide range of energy options, including coal. But his push to implement so-called "clean coal" technologies has flopped about as badly with environmentalists as it has with mining communities from Ohio to West Virginia.

The president, meanwhile, spent the afternoon in Iowa talking about the economic benefits of embracing wind energy options. He said the tax credits the White House is now leaning on Congress to extend are needed to sustain 75,000 jobs across the country.

"Over the past four years, we've doubled the amount of electricity America can generate from wind from 25 gigawatts to 50 gigawatts," Obama said. "That's like building 12 new Hoover Dams that are powering homes all across the country.

He also took a jab at Romney, who once said, "You can't drive a car with a windmill on it."

"Now, I don't know if he's actually tried that," the president said, laughing. "I know he's had other things on his car."

In 1983, Mitt Romney strapped the family dog, an Irish Setter called Seamus, to the roof of his station wagon as his young family drove from Boston to Ontario.

Obama first made reference to the dog during his speech in Oskaloosa, then again, hours later, at another Iowa rally, this one a little more than 60 miles south in Marshalltown. He'd notch the "hat trick" before the night was out, in Waterloo.