On the eve of his formal elevation as the Republican party's presidential candidate, Mitt Romney acknowledged that a steady barrage of criticism from the Obama campaign has taken its toll.
In separate interviews with USA Today and POLITICO, Romney decried the negative tone of a campaign that has featured attacks on his business record, his refusal to release more tax returns and his alleged disconnect from middle class voters. But he conceded that the strategy has been effective.
"I do think that the president's campaign of personal vilification and demonization probably draws some people away from me," Romney told USA Today. He noted that he has "plenty of weaknesses" but said that "the attacks that have come have been so misguided, have been so far off target, have been so dishonest, that they surprised me."
The Obama campaign and its allies have worked to depict Romney as an out-of-touch elitist whose policies would benefit the affluent at the expense of the middle class.
That tactic has produced some controversial moments, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's relating a former Romney colleague's alleged charge that Romney has not paid taxes in a decade, Vice President Joe Biden saying Romney's economic policies would put voters "back in chains" and an ad by a pro-Obama Super PAC in which a man connects his wife's death from cancer to losing his health insurance after his steel mill was acquired and shutter by Bain Capital, the firm Romney headed.
The Obama campaign has disavowed Reid's charges and the steelworker ad, but Romney cited them as examples of how the Obama campaign has veered off into dishonest, vicious attacks.
"The White House just keeps stepping lower and lower and lower, and the people of America know this is an important election and they deserve better than they've seen," Romney said.
Romney has also battled to win over voters personally, with polls consistently showing that Obama is better liked. But Romney brushed aside criticism that he has failed to appeal to voters, telling POLITICO that while "I don't think everybody likes me," Americans still trust him to lead.
"I do believe that people of this country are looking for someone who can get the country growing again with more jobs and more take-home pay, and I think they realize this president had four years to do that" and has failed, Romney told POLITICO.
And while Romney said the Obama campaign's attack ads have helped mold public perceptions during the long lull between the Republican primaries and the party conventions, he said voters are about to get a fresh look.
"Certainly, their ads have some impact or they wouldn't be running them," Romney told POLITICO. "But there would be an opportunity for people to get to know me better during the debates and during the time in the campaign season when people are actually paying a lot of attention to the candidates."