|U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (REUTERS/Jason Reed/Jessica Rinaldi)
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney locked in a dead heat three months before the election, both sides are using increasingly negative attacks.
They're even making stuff up to gain an edge.
A group supporting Obama, which is independent and unaffiliated with the president's official campaign, released an ad this week in which a widower from Missouri blames Romney for his wife's death.
Joe Soptic was employed by a steel company that went bankrupt while it was owned by Bain Capital, the venture capital firm Romney started and headed until 1999. In the ad, Soptic says he lost his health insurance when the company shuttered its doors, and a few years later his wife was diagnosed with cancer and died.
"When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care, and my family lost their health care," Soptic says in the ad. "And a short time after that, my wife became ill .".". she passed away in 22 days.
"I don't think Mitt Romney understands what he's done to people's lives."
One problem with the ad -- and there are many -- is that Romney had left Bain Capital to run the Salt Lake City Olympics when GST Steel went bankrupt in 2001. And the plant was actually being run by a now-major Obama fundraiser when it went bankrupt, not by Romney. And when Soptic's wife died in 2006, seven years after Romney had left Bain, he was then governing Massachusetts.
What's worse, it has also been reported Scoptic's wife had her own health insurance until 2003 when she quit her job.
Conservatives are outraged by the ad, calling it a new low on the campaign trail, but Priorities USA, the pro-Obama Super PAC plans to go ahead with it anyway and it could start airing in swing states this week.
Romney isn't completely innocent in the nasty deceptive ad war either, having accused Obama of gutting the work requirements from the welfare system and suggesting Obama will just send people cheques for doing nothing.
That's a lie, too.
According to the White House and political fact-checking organizations, Obama is simply allowing states to apply for waivers that would release them from the federal welfare work requirements if they have other work programs they want to implement instead that would get even more people off welfare and back into the workforce.
That increased flexibility for states, in fact, is exactly what Republican governors -- including Romney -- asked for in a letter to Congress in 2005.
The increasingly nasty and fabricated attack ads can be partially explained by the closeness of the race to date.
According to a string of national surveys conducted in the past 10 days, the two candidates are statistically tied.
A Rasmussen Reports national poll conducted this week found 45% support for both candidates, while a Gallup survey found Obama edging Romney by one point -- 47% to 46% -- though the difference is within the margin of error.
The presidential and congressional elections take place on Nov. 6.