President Obama, aiming to pull up his numbers in key swing states, is, along with his super PAC, releasing a wave of vicious ads that cast Mitt Romney as uncaring and anti-women.
But in doing so, his team is coming under fire for misrepresenting the facts and unfairly attacking the president's Republican rival. The Romney campaign has pushed back hard on the ads, one of which labels Romney as "extreme" on the issue of women's health and another of which ties him to a woman's death.
The latter ad was released by pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA. The ad focuses on the story of Joe Soptic, a former GST Steel worker among those affected when the firm declared bankruptcy in 2001, following the takeover by Romney's Bain Capital and other companies.
The ad, though, condensed a series of events that took place over several years, and Romney's ties to the situation are not clear. Further, Soptic's wife reportedly had health insurance for a while through her own employer, meaning Soptic's layoff did not strip the family of coverage.
But in the ad, Soptic recalled how when "Mitt Romney and Bain" closed the plant, his family lost their health care.
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"A short time after that, my wife became ill," he said. Soptic said that one day he took her to the hospital, where doctors found she had Stage 4 cancer.
"There was nothing they could do for her. And she passed away in 22 days," he said. "I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone."
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams rejected the premise of the ad in a written statement Tuesday.
"President Obama's allies continue to use discredited and dishonest attacks in a contemptible effort to conceal the administration's deplorable economic record. After 42 months of unemployment above 8 percent, it is clear that the president and his campaign do not have a rationale for reelection," he said.
Before the GST Steel closure, Romney left Bain in 1999 to work on the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. There have been ongoing disputes about his involvement with Bain during that period, since he was still listed as CEO in financial documents, but the campaign has maintained he effectively left the company in 1999.
Further, Soptic's wife died in 2006, according to a Kansas City Star article from the time. This would have been several years after the plant closed down, several years after Romney left Bain and as Romney was finishing his term as Massachusetts governor.
The ads come as the president launches a two-day tour through the Colorado battleground.
Obama plans to highlight the women's health issue at a campaign stop Wednesday in Denver, where he will tout the health care overhaul's impact on women -- and, to drive the point home, be introduced by the Georgetown University student who drew national attention after Rush Limbaugh called her a slut for supporting the so-called contraception mandate.
The push, combined with the raft of hard-hitting ads, comes as polling shows Obama faring well among women, but not so well among white working-class voters in general -- voters considered critical in the November election.
A new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll showed Romney leading by double-digits among that constituency in Colorado, Wisconsin and Virginia.
Obama, who held the lead among women in all three states, is trying to build that gender advantage to whatever extent he can. A recent Obama campaign ad released over the weekend included a woman saying she can't remember "anyone as extreme as Mitt Romney."
A new web video released by the campaign showed actress Elizabeth Banks touting Planned Parenthood, and criticizing Romney for his efforts to de-fund it. "He's going to take away cancer screenings? What is he doing?" she asked.