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Obama: Romney 'extreme,' dishonest, lacking in ideas

| Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, 6:40 p.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Mitt Romney has locked himself into “extreme positions” on economic and social issues and would surely impose them if elected, trying to discredit his Republican rival at the biggest political moment of his life.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Obama said Romney lacks serious ideas, refuses to “own up” to the responsibilities of what it takes to be president, and deals in factually dishonest arguments that could soon haunt him in face-to-face debates.

Obama offered a glimpse of how he would govern in a second term of divided government, insisting rosily that the forces of the election would help break Washington's stalemate. He said he would be willing to make a range of compromises with Republicans, confident there are some who would rather make deals than remain part of “one of the least productive Congresses in American history.”

With the remarks, Obama set up a contrast between Romney, whom he cast as an extremist pushing staunchly conservative policies, and himself, by saying he would work across party lines. It was a seeming play for the independent voters who decide close elections and tell pollsters they want to see the often-gridlocked politicians in Washington solve the nation's problems.

Mainly, Obama was intent on countering Romney even before his challenger got to the Republican National Convention. In doing so, the president tried to depict his opponent as having accumulated ideas far outside the mainstream.

“I can't speak to Gov. Romney's motivations,” Obama said. “What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some of the things that he's talked about.”

Obama spoke to the AP on Thursday before heading to Camp David for a long weekend with his family.

The president was at ease but doggedly on script, steering even personal-themed questions about Romney and running mate Paul Ryan into answers about contrasts between the Democratic and Republican agendas.

Across the interview, Obama's remarks often seemed directed at moderate and independent voters whose sway could make the difference.

Obama's depiction of a Romney presidency grew most pointed when he was asked if his Republican challenger has no core, as one of Obama's top advisers once put it. The president suggested that whatever Romney really stands for in life is secondary to the promises Romney has made in the campaign.

In explaining his accusation of “extreme” positions, the president cited Romney's call for across-the-board tax cuts that Obama said would mostly help the rich at the expense of everyone else and cost the nation $5 trillion.

The economy dominated Obama's message of a middle-class revival. “We aren't where we need to be. Everybody agrees with that,” he said.

A Romney spokesman, Ryan Williams, jumped on Obama's remark.

“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan agree,” Williams said. “The American people know they aren't better off than they were four years ago.”

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