Presidential Race Becoming Bare-Knuckled Brawl

Now that all contenders are in place, the campaigns begin attacking each other directly.

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Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Houston, Texas.

The gloves are off and civility has gone out the window in the presidential campaign. The escalating attacks from both sides this week show that there is no longer a slow "summer season" in the presidential race, which has heated up suddenly and with great intensity in the past few days.

One reason was the choice of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as his vice-presidential running mate. This triggered a ferocious assault from the Obama campaign and the Democrats, who say Ryan is a conservative zealot who would "end Medicare as we know it," slash valuable government programs, deny rights to women, and, in the end, set the country back.

[The Ballot 2012: Romney Wades Into Third-Rail Politics With Ryan]

Romney attacked Obama Tuesday night at a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, arguing that the president and his allies are making "wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the president." Romney said he was outraged by Vice President Joe Biden's comment in Virginia Tuesday that Romney's plans to ease federal regulations on Wall Street would "put y'all back in chains."

Romney said, "This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like. President Obama knows better, promised better, and America deserves better. His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51 percent of the pieces. If an American president wins that way, we all lose."

Romney added: "Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago, and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America."

The intensity of Romney's response suggests that he will now go all out in responding to attacks from the Obama campaign, which has been hammering him over his business background, his refusal to release the details of his tax history, and his pick of Ryan last weekend.

[The Big Money Behind Paul Ryan's Political Career]

In reply, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said Romney's comments "seemed unhinged, and particularly strange coming at a time when he's pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false."

LaBolt was referring to a Romney ad campaign charging the Obama administration with diverting $716 billion from Medicare to finance the president's overhaul of the healthcare system.

Obama has also tried to get under Romney's skin by needling him in a variety of ways. In Iowa, Obama made fun of his opponent over a long-ago incident in which Romney went on a family trip with his dog Seamus in a crate mounted on the roof of Romney's station wagon.

Romney and his aides have also been upset by an ad sponsored by Priorities USA, a pro-Obama political action committee, raising the prospect that Romney was responsible for the death of a woman whose husband lost his job and his health insurance at a steel mill after Bain Capital, a firm that Romney co-founded, took over the mill.

Matt Rhoades, Romney's campaign manager, Tuesday morning called the ad "disgraceful" and said Obama "continues his campaign of rage and divisiveness."

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.s. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," and is the author of "The Presidency" column in the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

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