MIAMI - Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of fostering a "web of dependency," on Wednesday amid a bitter electoral battle over their competing visions for US society in an ever-nastier campaign.
Under attack over videotaped comments dismissing 47 per cent of Americans as looking for government handouts, the Republican presidential nominee regrouped and defended his views as the path to prosperity.
"My course for the American economy will encourage private investment and personal freedom," Romney wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today.
"Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty."
He doubled down on the concept at a high-end Atlanta fundraiser, the third finance event in two days in which he has attacked Obama for embracing a more socialist system.
America "does not work by a government saying 'become dependent on government, become dependent upon redistribution.' That will kill the American entrepreneurship that's lifted our economy over the years," Romney told donors.
"The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class?" a fiery Romney added, tapping the pulpit for emphasis.
"I do. He does. The question is who can help the poor and the middle class? I can - he can't!"
Romney trails in the polls with just 48 days to go before the November 6 elections. Deficits in the key battlegrounds of Ohio and Florida are especially worrying for the Republican challenger as they could decide the race.
He has acknowledged that his bombshell comments at a May fundraiser, which were secretly videotaped and then made public this week by Mother Jones magazine, were badly phrased.