Trying to make the shift from defense to offense, Mitt Romney's campaign accused President Obama Monday of making "political payoffs" to cronies while the middle class suffered. The charge was part of a new line of attack, unveiled after the Romney campaign endured a harsh week that at times seemed to put the GOP candidate on his heels.
Romney, though, made clear in an interview with Fox News on Monday that he's going to get tougher on the president by more closely scrutinizing his background.
"The best offense is to look at the president's record," Romney said.
The former Massachusetts governor also continued to decry the Obama campaign for the tone of its attacks in recent weeks, and called them "dishonest" and "misdirected."
"What does it say about a president whose record is so poor that all he can do in his campaign is attack me?" Romney said. "A campaign based on falsehood and dishonesty does not have long legs."
The Romney campaign has called for an apology from Obama after a top aide suggested last week that Romney may have committed a felony in his Securities and Exchange Commission filings covering his tenure at Bain Capital. Questions about when he technically left that company fueled the Obama campaign charge, and have hung over the Romney campaign for days.
The Romney team, though, unveiled a new web ad Monday -- and plans to hold a related conference call -- hitting a theme they describe as "political payoffs and middle-class layoffs" under the Obama administration.
The text in the web video says: "Americans need help. So who is President Obama helping? His friends."
The campaign is highlighting news reports since Obama took office of top donors landing plum administration posts and securing government aid. The campaign cites at the top of that list the Department of Energy loan guarantees that went to alternative energy companies.
"When billions upon billions of dollars are given by the Obama administration to the businesses of campaign contributors, that's a real problem, particularly at a time when the middle class is really suffering in this country," Romney said. "I think it's wrong. I think it stinks to high heaven."
But the Obama campaign accused Romney of simply trying to "change the conversation because he doesn't want to answer questions about his time at Bain Capital." Campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Obama has set a bar for transparency that "Romney has not met, cannot possibly meet, even on his tippy toes."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also defended the loan guarantee program, saying Obama "will not concede the industries of the 21st century to China, India, Europe and elsewhere."
Obama, meanwhile, was heading to Ohio Monday where he'll likely hammer Romney and congressional Republicans for opposition to a plan that would extend the Bush-era tax rates for the middle-class, while raising taxes for top earners.
Obama and his aides so far have refused to apologize to Romney for their criticism of his Bain Capital record. Asked in an interview that aired Monday on CBS News about claims that his campaign is too negative, Obama disputed the premise.
The president said he's airing a "slew of positive ads" on education and energy, but they just don't get attention in the media.
He said he thinks Romney is a "patriot" who loves his family, but there is a "sharp contrast" between the two candidates.