Mitt Romney stopped running from his wealth Thursday, saying he won't apologize for his family's success after President Obama suggested that the presumptive GOP nominee was born with a "silver spoon in his mouth."
"I'm certainly not going to apologize for my dad and his success in his life," Romney said on Fox News. "I know the president likes to attack fellow Americans. He's always looking for a scapegoat, particularly those [who] have been successful like my dad, and I'm not going to rise to that."
Romney made the remarks after Obama appeared to make a veiled jab at the former Massachusetts governor's inherited wealth to a small crowd in Ohio on Wednesday.
"I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn't," Obama said in a speech in which he blasted Republicans for continuing tax breaks for the wealthy. "But somebody gave us a chance."
White House spokesman Jay Carney later said Obama wasn't targeting Romney in his remarks, that the president had made similar remarks in the past and that Romney is being "a little oversensitive" if he feels singled out.
Romney's Wall Street wealth tripped him up on the campaign trail even before Obama started talking about it. Romney's Republican primary challengers often questioned how someone so accustomed to privilege could understand the economic hardships faced by millions of blue-collar and middle-class voters. And Romney's own gaffes only made it worse.
The multimillionaire candidate tried to relate to a Detroit audience by noting that his wife drives "a couple of Cadillacs." He told racing fans that he doesn't follow the sport closely but has "some friends who are NASCAR team owners." He described nearly $400,000 in annual speaking fees as "not very much" money and once casually offered to bet a debate opponent $10,000.
Romney's campaign also has had to explain his renovation plans for a $12 million beachfront villa in San Diego that includes a car elevator and a 3,600-square-foot basement and why Romney had to get an extension to file his income tax returns as Obama released his returns.
The Romney campaign has labored to make the candidate more relatable to average voters, staging dozens of events in factories, dressing him in blue jeans and directing his wife to talk more publicly about Romney as a father and a husband.
"Americans are hurting," Romney said Thursday in a rousing "I-feel-your-pain" speech staged inside a shuttered Ohio factory. "[Obama] doesn't understand, I think, exactly what the American people are experiencing."
Romney's rebuttal to Obama's "silver spoon" comment Thursday was the first time the Republican embraced his wealth and went on the offensive against Obama on the subject, assailing the president's call for higher taxes on the wealthy as an attack on economic success, analysts said.
"[Obama's] campaign is not going to be about vision, it's going to be about division," Romney said. "You will see him attack success day in and day out. ... This is a president who is more intent on punishing people than he is for building our economy and getting people back to work."