For this week’s issue of TIME, Mitt Romney sat down with Managing Editor Rick Stengel and Senior Correspondent Michael Crowley. (pictured: behind-the-scenes images from this interview)
Michael Crowley: A quick question about the campaign, Governor. You said President Obama was running, I believe the phrase was a campaign of hate. Do you think President Obama hates you, personally? And how do you feel about him?
Mitt Romney: (Laughter.) You know, I think that the President’s campaign has taken on a course of divisiveness and attack which is very different than the campaign of hope and change which he described in his first run for office. And in some cases it’s Super PACs that are working in his behalf, but he refuses to distance himself from what they’ve said and I’ve been accused by Super PACs or by his campaign of a whole series of things which I think are taking a campaign into a very low and unfortunate place.
When I became the presumptive nominee of the party, the President called me and congratulated me and said that he thought the nation would benefit from an honest and open debate of the issues in the course forward. I agreed with him. But I have yet to see that from his campaign. Instead, it has been one attack after the other, one accusation, all of which or most of which have been distortions or misguided. And I think it’s beneath the office of the presidency to engage in a campaign of the nature that he has pursued.
My campaign is focused on his policies and on the failure of those policies, in my view. And I’ll continue to point out our differences in policy and things I think he’s doing wrong from a policy standpoint. But I will not waste a campaign attacking him as an individual. I’ve not tried to divide Americans between one class or another or one location or another or one occupation or another. I happen to feel that we are united as a nation and that’s a source of strength. And the divisiveness and the personal character assassination I think is an unfortunate course and I don’t think it will be a successful one.
Read more from the interview here.