EUCLID, OH -- Mitt Romney came to Ohio today with a message focused on jobs and the middle class, but it was his silence in response to an audience member's call for the president to be tried for treason that threatened to steal the political spotlight.
A woman in the audience asked Romney a question about the balance between the three branches of government under President Obama, which included an aside -- “And I do agree he should be tried for treason." Romney answered the woman's question without addressing the comment about treason, and his silence promtped an immediate protest from the Obama campaign.
"Time after time in this campaign, Mitt Romney has had the opportunity to show that he has the fortitude to stand up to hateful and over-the-line rhetoric and time after time, he has failed to do so," Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith said in a statement. "If this is the ‘leadership’ he has shown on the campaign trail, what can the American people expect of him as commander-in-chief?”
After the event, reporters approached Romney on the ropeline to ask him whether or not he also believed the president should be tried for treason.
"No," he told reporters from the Washington Post and New York Times. "No, of course not."
The event hearkens back to 2008, when Republican nominee Sen. John McCain was forced to correct attendees at his town hall events who incorrectly said then-candidate Barack Obama was a Muslim.
Later, Romney was asked by a reporter from CNN why he did not correct the questioner.
"I don't correct all of the questions that get asked of me," Romney said. "I obviously don't agree that he should be tried."
The Obama campaign also took issue with comments by Dave Yost, Ohio's state auditor, who was one of several warm up speakers prior to Romney and mocked the president and first family for vacations they have taken since Obama became president, saying they were "not middle class."
The Obama campaign accused Romney of "standing by silently as his chief surrogate attacked the President’s family," but in all likelihood Romney did not hear those remarks at all, as his campaign aides note, he was talking with local families in a closed-press meeting prior to taking the stage here.
The Romney campaign did not respond to further requests for comment.