Washington: President Barack Obama says Republican rival Mitt Romney has locked himself into "extreme positions" on economic and social issues and would surely impose them if elected, trying to discredit his challenger at the biggest political moment of his life.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Obama said Romney lacks serious ideas, refuses to "own up" to the responsibilities of what it takes to be President and deals in factually dishonest arguments that could soon haunt him in face-to-face debates before the November election.
The President appeared intent on countering Romney ahead of the Republican national convention, which starts early next week. The 25-minute interview was part of a campaign by Obama`s team to take some of the spotlight before Romney introduces himself to a TV audience of millions on Thursday as he accepts his party`s Presidential nomination.
Obama depicted his opponent as having accumulated ideas far outside the mainstream, with no room to turn back.
"I can`t speak to Governor Romney`s motivations," Obama said. "What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some of the things that he`s talked about."
Obama also offered a glimpse of how he would govern in a second term of divided government. He said he would be willing to make a range of compromises with Republicans, confident there are some who would rather make deals than remain part of "one of the least productive Congresses in American history."
Obama spoke to the AP before a long weekend with his family at Camp David, the secluded Presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains.
The President was at ease but on script, steering even personal-themed questions about Romney and running mate Paul Ryan into answers about starkly different visions for helping the middle class.
Romney, a successful former executive of a private equity firm and one-time Massachusetts governor, has offered himself as a business-minded alternative to Obama in a close race where the economy is the top issue and has seized on voter concerns about joblessness and the direction of the nation.
Nearly 10 weeks before Election Day, the race is reflective of a sharply divided nation, with registered voters about evenly split on their choice and nearly a quarter of them unsure or still willing to change their mind.
Obama`s messages during the interview often seemed directed at moderate and independent voters whose sway could make the difference.
Obama suggested that whatever Romney really stands for in life is secondary to the promises Romney has made in the campaign.
In explaining his accusation of "extreme" positions, the president cited Romney`s call for across-the-board tax cuts that Obama said would mostly help the rich at the expense of everyone else and cost the nation USD 5 trillion.
Obama singled out Romney`s opposition to tax credits for producers of wind energy, the kind of issue that carries large political resonance in a battleground state such as Iowa.
And Obama alluded to the provocative issue of abortion, suddenly thrust to the fore in recent days after Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin said in an interview the female body has a way to "shut that whole thing down" when a woman is the victim of "legitimate rape."
The Republican platform at its convention calls for a ban on abortion with no specific exceptions for rape or other circumstances. Obama predicted that a President Romney would not "stand in the way" if Congress gave him a bill that stripped away women`s control over their reproductive health.
Romney is on record, however, as not opposing abortion in cases of rape and incest or if it will save the mother`s life. Polling shows social issues such as abortion represent perhaps Obama`s best opportunity to draw support from Romney.
Obama already holds a broad lead as the candidate more trusted to handle those social issues among Democrats and independents. The issue is one of Romney`s biggest vulnerabilities among moderate and liberal Republicans.
Obama also sought to chip away at Romney`s trustworthiness, taking fresh shots at Romney`s refusal to release years of tax returns for public inspection.
He said that position was indicative of a candidate who has a "lack of willingness to take responsibility for what this job entails."
Romney so far has released just one year of tax returns and has said he will release another.