Pressure is mounting on Mitt Romney to “cowboy up” and start attacking Barack Obama with the same force that the president’s team is using on him.
Romney himself insists there is no “wimp factor” but other key Republicans believe the only way to beat Obama in the fall election is to go negative on his record.
Leading the demands was Donald Trump, who has thrown his weight behind the Romney campaign. “If he doesn’t fight fire with fire, it’s going to be not so easy,” the business mogul told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.
Trump said that Obama’s campaigns have historically been dirty, and this one promises to be “even meaner” than those in 2008 against Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
Newsweek ran a cover story headlined “Romney: The Wimp Factor” which asked whether the GOP challenger is “just too insecure to be president.”
Writer Michael Tomasky said of Romney, "He keeps saying these . . . things, these incredibly off-key things. Then he apologizes immediately — with all the sincerity of a hostage. Or maybe he doesn’t: sometimes he whines about the subsequent attacks on him. But the one thing he never does? Man up, double down, take his lumps."
The campaign publicly blew off the Newsweek piece, blaming the mainstream media. “If I worried about what the media said I wouldn’t get much sleep,” said Romney. “And I'm able to sleep pretty well.”
But privately the accusations that Romney isn’t tough enough for the fight are beginning to gain traction.
His fence-sitting over the Chick-fil-A controversy annoyed many social conservatives who believe he should have come down firmly in favor of company president Dan Cathy in an issue that was more about freedom of speech than whether gays should be allowed to marry.
Instead Romney said the issue was not part of the campaign, leaving many to wonder if he was waiting for poll results before deciding which side to support.
The Obama camp has come out fighting in the past few weeks. Most notorious among the attacks was from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who asserted — without any apparent proof — that Romney had paid no taxes for 10 years.
Then, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said, "We don't know if Mitt Romney is a tax avoider, or worse yet, we don't know if he is a tax cheat," again putting the idea that he may have something to hide before voters.
Leading Republicans have attacked Reid, but Romney has largely stayed silent, merely insisting Reid gives proof. The candidate — who is estimated to be worth $250 million adamantly refuses to release more than two years’ worth of tax returns, potentially leaving him open to further attacks.
On Tuesday a super PAC supporting the president issued an ad in which a former steelworker blamed Romney for his wife’s death from cancer, saying that Romney’s company, Bain Capital, closed down the mill he worked at, meaning he had no health insurance, so his wife delayed going to the doctor.
The ad said nothing about the five-year gap between the plant’s closure and Ranae Soptic’s death.
But the attacks have had the effect Democrats wanted. Obama has had a significant bump in polls over the past week with the latest, from Reuters giving him a 7 percentage point lead.
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