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Romney aides push controversial welfare ad

A worker adjusts a Romney Ryan sign in preparation for the upcoming Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 26, 2012 in Tampa Bay, Florida. UPI/Mike Theiler
A worker adjusts a Romney Ryan sign in preparation for the upcoming Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 26, 2012 in Tampa Bay, Florida. UPI/Mike Theiler | License Photo

TAMPA, Fla., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Aides to Mitt Romney said Tuesday they plan an aggressive campaign after the Republican convention, including a controversial ad on welfare and work.

The aides appeared at a panel hosted by ABC News and Yahoo in Tampa, The Hill newspaper reported.

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Romney advertising director Ashley O'Connor said the campaign would tout Romney's credentials and would push attack ads, such as the one alleging President Barack Obama had removed the work requirement from welfare.

Fact-checking organizations have called the ad patently false. The White House says Obama gave states flexibility in welfare programs as demanded by Democratic and Republican governors, but said at the time of the offer he would not approve any change that removed the work for welfare requirement.

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The political Web site Buzzfeed quoted Ashley O'Connor, a top Romney advertising adviser, as saying the welfare ad is the campaign's most effect ad. The report quoted senior Romney pollster Neil Newhouse as saying, "Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."

Aboard Air Force One Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said reporters in Tampa "raised the fact that (the Romney campaign) had spent more money than on any other ad, on a series of ads that falsely represented the president's record on welfare reform, and they have continued to pump money into this advertising campaign even though everyone in the media has identified the fact that these ads are false, that fact checkers have identified them as categorically and wholly and blatantly false.

"And the response from the Romney team was 'We don't care,'" Carney said. "'We don't care what fact checkers say. We don't care what the facts say.' They basically said to you reporters, 'We don't care what you say. We're going to keep running this ad.'"

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Earlier in Tampa, Romney advisers said the campaign would be able to target aggressively some states usually considered Democratic, such as Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, and running-mate Paul Ryan will be let loose on the campaign trail.

Senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said people will be in the "decision-making stage" of the election after the convention, and will be giving greater attention to the race.

"I think they're going to vote for change. And if you're voting for change, you're voting for Mitt Romney," he said. "The debates will be huge."

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Romney adviser Beth Myers said, "People will start paying attention, and when they pay attention that works for us," The Hill reported.

The Romney staffers pointed out they will have access to general election funds after the convention, and Romney has $185.9 million cash on hand compared to President Barack Obama's $123.7 million as of the end of July.

Neil Newhouse said the campaign was looking to make inroads with "Walmart moms," white, suburban mothers from suburban swing states, The Hill reported.

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The Romney campaign is downplaying any "bump" in the Republican's polling numbers from the convention, Politico reported.

Senior adviser Stuart Stevens told reporters on a flight from Boston to Tampa "all bets are off."

"I have no idea" about a potential bump, Stevens said. "Of course this convention is different because of the hurricane (bearing down on the Gulf Coast). The conventions are different now, they're later now. We're having back-to-back conventions."

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Stevens argued Romney is going into the convention "tied or with a lead."

"If the election was held tomorrow we would win and win pretty easily," he said.

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