In a brutal campaign conference call Tuesday organized by Mitt Romney's campaign, several of the candidate's surrogates went after President Obama with fiery attacks accusing him of socialism, and being un-American.
"I wish this president would learn how to be an American," said former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu said toward the beginning of the call. Asked later to explain his comment, Sununu said he was referring to Obama's economic philosophy, and apologized for not being clearer.
Sununu also said that by asserting Romney had committed a felony, the Obama campaign was inviting an investigation into its own "Chicago-style" politics. He concluded the call by calling Obama's campaign "clearly and unequivocally liars."
Among the other jabs at Obama were Kyle Koehler, an Ohio tool manufacturer, accusing the president of supporting socialism, and Renee Amoore, a Pennsylvania small business advocate, delivering a passionate diatribe about how her shared race with the president wouldn't win her support.
"Well, I've been black for a long time and he won't get my vote," Amoore said.
Earlier Tuesday, Sununu made several of the charges in an interview with Fox News, suggesting that his words on the conference call were part of a new Romney campaign effort to turn the focus of the race away from questions about his time at Bain Capitol.
"He has no idea how the American system functions," Sununu told Fox. "And we shouldn't be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia, and, frankly, when he came to the U.S., he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago."
The Romney campaign is coming off a week of of absorbing tough blows to the Republican's business record and personal finances, and Republicans have been calling on their nominee to step up the intensity of his pushback. Today's call could be an answer to that encouragement — as well as a bid to change to subject of the national conversation.
UPDATE: Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith issued the following statement in response to the Romney campaign call:
"The Romney campaign has officially gone off the deep end. The question is what else they’ll pull to avoid answering serious questions about Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts. This meltdown and over-the-top rhetoric won’t make things better- it only calls attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation.”
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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