From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike
SANFORD, FL -- The hits just keep on coming.
In a continuation of their back-and-forths, Romney blasted McCain on the economy -- and wanted the Arizona senator to know that he has no interest in becoming McCain's running mate.
"There's another guy running on our side, Sen. McCain -- he's a good man, he's a hero -- but his views on the economy, well, I think are sort of summed up by his own statement that it's not really something he understands that well. He's said that a couple of times," Romney said. He added that McCain "indicated that when he chose his vice president, it would have to be somebody who really understood the economy. Well, I do understand the economy, and I'm not going to be being any vice president to John McCain, either. That's not going to happen."
Romney's been blasting McCain's economic knowledge on the stump and with reporters in the Sunshine State in recent days. But he's so far steered clear of attacking him in paid advertising (with Web ads as the exception). That's a change in course from how the campaign was operating in several of the other early states –- Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan.
Even before 7:00 am ET, Romney came out swinging against McCain today: At a gas station session with reporters that the campaign added late Sunday to today's schedule, Romney addressed what he considers to be shortcomings in McCain's record. Those boiled down to three bills Romney considers flawed. They are McCain-Feingold, which he said has made the impact of money on politics worse; McCain-Kennedy, which he tagged as an "amnesty bill"; and McCain-Lieberman.
Romney said he scheduled the session at a gas station to "underscore the fact that Sen. McCain's McCain-Lieberman would be a very expensive bill for the people of Florida." He explained, "By our calculation, a family of four would have to spend about an extra 1000 dollars a year when McCain-Lieberman became law, and again that's because gas would rise in price approximately 50 cents a gallon and natural gas would rise about 20 percent."
Though McCain had sought to change the dynamic of the race on Saturday by turning the dialogue to the war in Iraq, Romney called it "yesterday's news" on Sunday, after having said Saturday that he knows McCain "desperately" wants the focus to move away from the economy. Romney has also made the retort that "every news organization" that has looked at McCain's comments has found them to be wrong.