Boston, Mass. (CNN) – Seizing on a controversy that has dogged President Barack Obama's campaign in recent days, a top adviser to Mitt Romney accused the president of diminishing his office with "unbelievable distortions" in his reelection effort.
Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior member of team Romney, faulted what he called the Obama campaign's "desperate tactics," over a pro-Obama super PAC's advertisement that linked Romney to the death of a steelworker's wife.
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"They've gone from what started as petty distortions and untruths to unbelievable exaggerations that diminish the office of the president and insult the American people," Ferhnstrom said. "I don't think a world champion limbo dancer could get any lower than the Obama campaign right now."
The ad, released by a super PAC supportive of Obama's candidacy but yet to actually run in a paid commercial slot, features a steelworker who lost his job after Romney's private equity firm took over GST Steel.
Former steelworker Joe Soptic says his wife died without health insurance after he was laid off, though the ad does not that Soptic was let go in 2001 and his wife did not get sick until 2006. She had also previously had her own insurance through another job which she later lost due to injury.
Though the super PAC, Priorities USA, legally must operate independently of the president's campaign, Obama campaign officials were drawn into the controversy after campaign advisers denied knowledge of the man and his story. But Soptic had told his story on a campaign conference call in May.
The escalating offensive by the Romney campaign come as three national polls show the president's support growing among voters. A campaign adviser downplayed those polls, saying daily tracking polls did not show the same movement and that voters were not paying attention at this stage in the race.
"There's been three polls over the last 36 hours showing us down from anywhere from six to nine points or so," said the adviser. "It's the middle of summer. It's the doldrums. It's the middle of the Olympics. There's not been any national news, anything that would push these numbers from minus three to minus nine points."
Romney advisers also downplayed the effects of a European trip plagued by gaffes and a lingering gap in likeability polling between Romney and Obama.
"I wish you could see the governor interact with people the way I see him," Fehrnstrom said. "I think Americans of all types find Mitt Romney an appealing public leader."
As Romney was set to embark on a four-day bus tour through swing states won by Obama in 2008, Fehrstrom vowed Romney would continue to focus on issues such as small business growth and changes in the welfare program instituted by the Obama campaign.
"We are betting that a substantive campaign conducted on the high ground and focused primarily on jobs and the economy will trump a campaign that is designed to appeal to our worst instincts," he said.
Beginning Saturday, Romney will travel to Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.
Responding Friday, a spokeswoman from the Obama campaign said Team Romney's briefing was "extremely hollow."
"The Romney campaign's faux outrage over an ad run by an outside group separate from our campaign rings extremely hollow," Lis Smith said in a statement. "Mitt Romney won the Republican primary only by tearing down each of his opponents with ruthlessly negative campaigning, including ads funded by outside allies. His campaign has questioned whether the President understands what it is to be American, attacked his patriotism, and is currently running an ad that a former president and authors of the welfare-to-work legislation have called a flat-out lie. When the Romney campaign finally reaches the high ground, we look forward to greeting them there."