CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — In one of the most hard-edged speeches of his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney stood before roughly 5,000 cheering supporters and shamed President Obama for running a "campaign of division, and anger, and hate."
The campaign has been escalating its rhetoric over the past week as it denounces a series of attacks it sees as out of bounds — from a Priorities USA commercial apparently blaming Romney for the death of a laid-off steel worker's wife, to Vice President Biden telling a Virginia crowd earlier Tuesday that a Romney presidency would "put y'all back in chains."
In response, Romney accused Obama of trying to "smash America apart" and then win with a majority of the broken pieces.
His words came on one of the nastiest days of the 2012 presidential campaign, on which each side accused the other of a race to the bottom. Romney's senior adviser, Kevin Madden, rejected the notion that such harsh rhetoric undermined Romney's claim to the high ground.
"This is seizing the high-ground and imploring the president to join the debate there," Madden told BuzzFeed.
Madden went on to say that the candidate was intentionally emphasizing Obama's tactics, in an effort contrast the president with the 2008 candidate many voters fell in love with.
"It's important to point out just how far President Obama has wandered from his hope and change rhetoric," Madden said. "It's become so clear, too, that it was just rhetoric, just idle words with no meaning."
He continued, "Governor Romney sent a message to these voters in Ohio and everywhere else that the kind of race you run says a lot about the kind of president you will be."
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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