Romney sharpens his attacks on Obama

Republican Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at Lawrence University March 30, 2012 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Wisconsin residents will go to the polls on April 3 to vote for their choice for the Republican presidential nominee.
Getty Images/Scott Olson
Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop
Getty Images/Scott Olson

(CBS News) Mitt Romney has sharpened his attack on President Obama's economic stewardship. Jim Geraghty of National Journal asked the likely Republican nominee about the scandal at the GSA and how President Romney would root out that kind of waste and fraud. His answer: "I think the example starts at the top. People have to see that the president is not taking elaborate vacations and spending in a way that is inconsistent with the state of the overall economy and the state of the American family."

For much of the primaries, Romney has argued that President Obama was a nice guy but in over his head. This is a tougher charge. The president isn't just out of touch. He's off enjoying fancy vacations while the American people suffer.

When you are a president of the United States, every vacation is elaborate-- particularly if you were not wealthy enough to own a weekend retreat before coming into office that you can repair too. Presidents are also never on vacation. The job goes with them. Romney knows this and will embrace these facts if he wins. Before then, as I wrote earlier this week, he is hoping to use the trappings of the office to make the president look "out of touch."

By talking about presidential vacations, Romney is going after emotions far stronger than mere disappointment. We know there is a reservoir of anger in the country over the economy. People are frustrated with institutions like the presidency where they believe fancy elites care more about themselves than the people who pay their salaries. This is Romney's inroad to that anger as he tries to keep the election focused on blaming President Obama for the current state of things.

The president's advisers will argue the economic case -- that the situation would have been worse without Obama's policies and that electing Mitt Romney will reverse the progress -- but they will also try to get voters to focus on Mitt Romney's behavior to keep the election as a choice between two alternatives, rather than as a referendum on the incumbent. "Only Mitt Romney, who spent 212 days outside of Massachusetts for one year as Governor, would attack the President for spending time with his family - like every other President has," said Ben LaBolt, press secretary for the president's re-election campaign.

Below, CBS News political director John Dickerson hosts this week's "Hotsheet Live" with NYT's Jeff Zeleny, USA Today's Susan Page and CBS News and Real Clear Politics' Scott Conroy for a discussion on the latest CBS News/NYT poll, enthusiasm gaps and "silly season."