Associated Press

PUEBLO, Colo. — Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama both deplored the pervasive presence of televised attack ads in the race for the White House on Thursday, though neither acknowledged being helped as well as harmed. Each blamed his foe.

Romney went first, saying of the president’s campaign, “They just blast ahead” with ads that have been judged false by independent fact checkers.

“I don’t know whatever happened to a campaign of ‘hope and change,'” he said, a mocking reference to the spirit of optimism that Obama evoked during his successful run for the White House in 2008.

Obama ignored the slap. He told an audience in Colorado that “over the next three months, you will see more negative ads,” and he suggested the blame lies with outside groups backing his rival.

“I mean, these super PACs, these guys are writing $10 million checks and giving them to Mr. Romney’s supporters,” he said.

Obama spoke as his own campaign unleashed yet another in the attack ad category, this one questioning whether there was ever a year in which Romney paid no federal taxes. “We don’t know,” the announcer says, then quickly adds that Romney once “personally approved over $70 million in fictional losses to the IRS as part of … one of the largest tax-avoidance schemes in history.”

Romney broached the subject two days after the release of a searing ad in which a former steelworker appears to suggest that he and Bain Capital, the private equity firm he owned, might bear some responsibility for the man’s wife’s death from cancer. The ad is the work of Priorities USA Action, a group that supports Obama, and it has been judged inaccurate by independent fact checkers and attacked vociferously by aides to the Republican presidential challenger.

The back-and-forth took place as Romney looked ahead to a bus tour through four states in as many days, ending next Tuesday in Ohio. The itinerary renewed speculation that the trip might culminate in the announcement that the state’s Sen. Rob Portman would be the named vice presidential running mate on the Republican ticket.

Obama barnstormed through battleground Colorado more like a candidate for statewide office than for the White House, with stops in several parts of the state over two days.

After saying in Denver that Romney advocated policies on women’s issues straight from the 1950s, he switched topics to alternative energy. Campaigning in Pueblo, the president noted that his rival wants to end a tax credit that benefits the producers of wind energy, an industry that Obama said supports about 5,000 jobs in Colorado and as many as 37,000 nationwide.

“It’s time to stop spending billions in taxpayer subsidies on an oil industry that’s already making a lot of profit, and let’s keep investing in new energy sources that have never been more promising,” he said.

Three of Colorado’s four Republican House members support the credit, as do senior Republican office holders in Iowa, another presidential battleground state where Romney’s opposition puts him at odds with the GOP establishment.

At issue is a tax credit that was originally signed into law 20 years ago by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and generally has enjoyed bipartisan support in the years since.

Legislation headed for the Senate floor would renew the tax break for existing facilities for one year, and also allow facilities that begin construction before the end of 2013 to qualify for a 10-year credit. The estimated cost is $12.1 billion over a decade, and the tax break has drawn criticism from some conservatives in Congress as a waste.

Romney sides with the critics, and in March he wrote, “In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy. This vision has failed.”

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