TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — President Barack Obama said rival Mitt Romney hasn’t “gotten around a lot” if he believes that 47 percent of Americans consider themselves victims and entitled to government help. Addressing a large Latino television audience Thursday, the president also said his “biggest failure” was an inability to win an overhaul of the immigration system.
In suggesting his GOP rival was out of touch, Obama was reacting to secretly taped remarks by Romney in which the Republican declared that the 47 percent of voters who support Obama represent Americans who don’t pay income taxes and “who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.”
Obama said Americans pay payroll taxes, gas taxes and state and sales taxes. He noted that those who don’t pay income taxes include workers who don’t make enough money to qualify, older Americans and students.
“When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government, my thinking is maybe you haven’t gotten around a lot,” Obama said during an interview with Spanish language channel Univision.
The president later referenced the issue at a Tampa fundraiser, telling supporters he didn’t want his daughters and other young people to think “that somehow half of the country is locked out” of pursuing success.
“I want everybody to be successful. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, able or disabled, I want everybody to have a chance to succeed,” Obama said.
The forum earlier in the day on the campus of the University of Miami gave Obama a rebuttal of sorts. Romney spoke Wednesday at the Univision forum, where he said his campaign was about “the 100 percent in America.”
Obama, who ran on a message of changing the partisan tone in Washington, said he had come to the conclusion that “you can’t change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside.” He went on to say that what he had accomplished since taking office was due to mobilizing “the American people to speak out.”
“So something that I’d really like to concentrate on in my second term is being in a much more constant conversation with the American people so that they can put pressure on Congress to help move some of these issues forward,” he said.
Romney seized on the remarks to say that Obama had surrendered in the face of a broken Washington and major challenges.
“He said he can’t change Washington from inside. He can only change it from outside,” Romney told supporters in Sarasota, Fla. “I can change Washington. I will change Washington. We’ll get the job done from the inside – Republicans and Democrats will come together. He can’t do it. His slogan was ‘Yes, we can.’ His slogan now is ‘No, I can’t.’ This is time for a new president.”
The president faced tough questions on why he hadn’t accomplished comprehensive immigration reform, an important issue for Hispanic voters. Jorge Ramos, one of the moderators, put it bluntly: “You promised that and a promise is a promise and with all due respect, you didn’t keep that promise.”
Obama said he accepted responsibility but that he faced an economy “on the verge of collapse” in his first year and blamed Republicans for abandoning support for comprehensive immigration reform. He said there was “the thinking that the president is somebody who is all-powerful and can get everything done.”
“What I confess I did not expect, and so I’m happy to take responsibility for being naive here, is that Republicans who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform, my opponent in 2008 who had been a champion of it and who attended these meetings, suddenly would walk away,” he said.
Asked later in the interview to name his biggest failure, Obama cited a lack of comprehensive immigration reform, but added: “It’s not for a lack of trying or desire.”
Obama’s Tampa fundraiser was attended by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Ronde Barber of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and included a performance by Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder. Vedder broke out a Hawaiian-made ukulele and joked, “It’s got a little birth certificate right in there,” a reference to discredited claims that Obama was not born in the United States.