WASHINGTON - Hypocritical. Contemptible. Dishonest. "Obamaloney." The rhetoric, charges and counter-charges flew fast and thick Tuesday as the presidential election campaign continued on its sharply negative trajectory.
New advertisements by each side prompted caustic responses from the other as name-calling and finger-pointing dominated the debate less than three months before the November vote that pits President Barack Obama against certain Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
A day after Obama coined the phrase "Romneyhood" to describe policies by Romney that Obama said tax the poor to help the rich -- or Robin Hood in reverse -- Romney fired back by creating his own word -- Obamaloney -- to accuse the president of making things up.
"He is serving up a dish that is in contradiction to the truth," Romney told Fox News.
Meanwhile, a Romney ad that began airing Tuesday accused Obama of seeking to undermine work requirements in a bipartisan welfare reform law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
White House spokesman Jay Carney rejected the claim, telling reporters that the ad was "categorically false" and "blatantly dishonest."
"This administration's policy will strengthen the (welfare) program by giving states the opportunity to employ more effective ways," Carney said.
Following a weekend imbroglio over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's claim that a former Romney associate told him Romney paid no taxes in past years, the campaign has veered into a political mud pile that emphasizes dirtying the opponent first.
The tactics are part of the big-picture efforts by both sides to frame the election in terms favorable to their man. For Romney, that means portraying Obama as a failed president unworthy of a second term. For Obama, that means depicting the former Massachusetts governor as a champion of the wealthy class and special interests.
Reid's unsubstantiated claim, based on an unidentified source, was intended to keep alive the push by Democrats to force Romney to release more of his past tax returns than the two years disclosed so far -- his 2010 filing and an estimate for 2011. Romney says he will make public the final version of last year's return.
Democrats know that whatever any additional returns show, they can highlight the details of tax breaks and other accounting maneuvers by the multimillionaire Romney to bolster the perception they seek to exploit that he represents society's fat cats.
Republicans responded by attacking Reid's credibility, and by extension, the president's also.
Romney called on Reid to disclose his source or shut up, insisting he paid lots of taxes in past years, while top party spokesmen and surrogates called Reid a liar and said he was carrying out the attack at the request of the White House.
Obama advisers, benefiting from the continued focus on the matter, denied they were behind Reid's push,
"There is a way to resolve this dispute ... which is for the governor to follow a tradition that was established by his own father many years ago of presidential candidates releasing multiple years of his tax return," White House spokesman Jay Carney chimed in Tuesday.
Carney referred to the decision by George Romney, the former Michigan governor who released 12 years of his tax returns when running for president in 1968. Mitt Romney says he has complied with the law and won't release any further returns that would only get distorted by Democratic attackers.
Earlier Tuesday, a Romney ad on welfare changes by the Obama administration claimed they would "gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements."
"Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check," the announcer says. "And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare."
The changes, which would allow states greater flexibility in administering their welfare-to-work programs, were in a directive issued last month by the Department of Health and Human Services.
At the time, some Republicans claimed the new rules amounted to a "gutting" of work requirements for welfare recipients, which were a central element of the bipartisan welfare reform law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
Carney responded with unusually strong language at his daily briefing.
"This advertisement is categorically false and it is blatantly dishonest," Carney said. "This administration's policy will strengthen the program by giving states the opportunity to employ more effective ways."
He also called Republican criticism of the changes "hypocrisy," pointing to past support from Republican governors -- including Romney -- for waivers to the federal requirements. In addition, Carney said, Republican governors in Nevada and Utah already are seeking waivers under the administration's program.
Obama's re-election campaign, meanwhile, accused Romney of "not telling the truth."
"The truth is that the President is giving states additional flexibility only if they move more people from