The knives are out in the US presidential race, and Mitt Romney is the one struggling to deal with the sustained attacks by incumbent Barack Obama.
The US president has refused to apologise for his attacks on Romney, saying his election rival is bad for US jobs.
"It's shameful that we are trying to demonise a wealthy guy … Why are we demonising someone who's wealthy? This is crazy. This is America. We should respect that and give Mitt Romney the credit for successfully having a company that created a lot of jobs."
- Richard Grenell, a former Romney spokesman
Obama and his campaign team have been relentlessly questioning the Republican candidate over the business practices of his former equity firm, Bain Capital, which they claim were bad for US jobs. It is not clear how involved Romney was in those decisions.
Also an issue is the multi-millionaire's personal finances. The Obama camp says Romney's reluctance to release more than two years' tax returns suggests he is not been paying his fair share. Obama has released tax returns from the last 12 years.
It is a rare show of ruthlessness from the Democratic election machine. Demands for apologies have been refused and the Romney camp has even been told to "stop whining".
The Obama campaign just released a new advertisement targeting Romney's tax history. And it turns the tables on previous years when it was the Republicans hitting hard – like with the notorious swift boat campaign that sunk John Kerry's presidential hopes in 2004.
"The only way [Obama] is going to win this race is by destroying confidence in Romney. The polls show people don't really like or trust Romney and the president is running hard on that … he's got to run a pretty harsh, negative campaign."
- Bill Schneider, a political analyst
Romney says Obama is trying to distract voters from the failure of the US economy.
But as Obama goes on the offensive about his rival's previous jobs record, there will be some tough questions to come during the rest of the campaign about his own disappointing unemployment figures.
The argument over Bain Capital has been going on for weeks but it has started heating up over the last few days.
Inside Story: US 2012 asks: What about Obama's own jobs record? And will Romney's rich history be too much for voters?
Joining the discussion with presenter Anand Naidoo are guests: Chuck Rocha, the Democratic strategist and senior fellow at the Center for National Policy; Bill Schneider, a political analyst and distinguished senior fellow and resident scholar at Third Way, a US think tank promoting moderate politics; and Richard Grenell, a former Romney spokesman and political consultant.
"Mitt Romney, just like Barack Obama, has to figure out how to relate with the people who are going to make the biggest difference in this election ... a few hundred thousand people in a few battleground states, most of which are probably blue-collar workers."
Chuck Rocha, a Democratic strategist
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Mitt Romney was the former head of investment firm Bain Capital. He says he retired in 1999. Bain is accused of investing in firms that outsourced jobs overseas. Romney reportedly kept his CEO title until 2002, prompting the debate over his tenure including decisions made in a 1999 Bain-engineered layoff.
Barack Obama is faced with high unemployment rates. It stood at 7.7 per cent in mid-July, according to the Gallup group. The monthly job creation in the US averaged 200,000 per month in January and February. The US economy added only 80,000 jobs in June. Obama says he inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression and admits there is "more to do" on improving employment.