Obama, Romney campaign surrogates duke it out on TV blabfests

While Mitt Romney and President Obama were finishing up a little summer down time, their campaign surrogates were arguing issues and candidate character on the Sunday TV talk shows.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
President Barack Obama waves as he arrives from Camp David via the Marine One helicopter at the White House in Washington Sunday.

Presidential campaign surrogates were all over the Sunday TV talk shows, defending their man and taking shots at their opponents.

For President Obama, the main subject was the economy – in particular the lackluster jobs and employment figures that have dogged him for months, plus charges of big government overreach with his health care act. For Mitt Romney, it was his personal economy – new revelations about blind trusts and offshore holdings, including a secret corporation in Bermuda.

(For their part, the two principals were relaxing – Romney on vacation with his large family at their vacation compound on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, the Obamas just back from a weekend at Camp David.)

In Pictures: On the Campaign Trail with Mitt Romney

"This is the most tepid recovery – if it is a recovery – from a deep recession in American history,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN's “State of the Union.” "The economy is just sputtering along and the reason for that, in my judgment, is because of what the administration chose to do: spend, borrow, pass this new Obamacare law with its penalty tax in it, its mandate tax."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus pointed out that “there are almost half a million more people unemployed today than four years ago.”

"Remember, they said if we pass this trillion-dollar stimulus that we'd have 5.5 percent unemployment today,” Mr. Priebus reminded viewers on “Fox News Sunday.” “What that means, if they kept their promises, there would be 8.5 million more people employed today."

Per the Obama campaign’s talking points, Democratic National Committee Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz – also speaking on Fox – countered with figures of her own: the private sector adding jobs for 28 months in a row and more than 4 million jobs added since Obama took office at a time when the economy was losing some 700,000 jobs a month.

"The progress that we are making is moving us forward," she said. "We haven't gone far enough. But we need to keep pressing forward and continue to focus on middle-class tax breaks and making sure that we can create jobs and make sure that we get the economy moving forward, and great if Republicans would join us in that effort."

The main line of Democratic attack Sunday was on new reports by Vanity Fair and the Associated Press regarding Romney’s offshore investments.

“He bet against America when he put his money in Swiss bank accounts and tax havens and shelters and also set up a secret company, the shell company in Bermuda,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’ve never known of a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs…. That’s not an economic strategy for moving our country forward.”
Senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod invoked an unpopular Republican specter to charge that Romney may be “the most secretive candidate that we’ve seen, frankly, since Richard Nixon.”

Republicans fended off such charges as a “distraction” (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on ABC) or a phony attack on a successful businessman who earned his wealth through innovation and hard work.

“He hasn’t paid a penny less in taxes by virtue of where these funds are domiciled,” Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said in statement to Fox News. “His liability is exactly the same as if he held the fund investments directly in the U.S. As a U.S. citizen, he is accountable for U.S. taxes. Some investments in some foreign countries can be tax havens. But Mitt Romney does not hold any such investments.”

Romney surrogates also answered criticism from some conservatives that he hasn’t articulated his own plans for economic recovery and health care insurance reform.

"Right now, Romney is smart to wait before he starts laying out proposal after proposal," former Mississippi governor and former RNC chairman Haley Barbour said on CNN. "The people will then compare that to Obama's record, and that referendum on his record will happen."

Still, other Romney backers remain uneasy about their man being “risk-averse,” as conservative columnist George Will put it on ABC.

"He does seem to be in something like a four-corner stall in basketball," Mr. Will said. "But you can't get to the NCAA championship, you can't get to the presidency running out the clock. So he's going to have to do something more than say Obama's not working."

Following their down time, Romney and Obama will be back on the campaign trail this week. Obama travels to two key states: Iowa and Virginia. Romney will be stumping in Colorado and Texas.

In Pictures: On the Campaign Trail with Mitt Romney

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