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White House letting Romney's '47%' comment speak for itself

September 18, 2012|By Christi Parsons

President Obama is trying not to get in Mitt Romney's way while Republican candidate deals with a newly released video of him offering frank comments about Obama supporters during a closed-door fundraiser.

But the president's team is also not passing up the chance to point out Romney's comments to interested viewers.

Out Tuesday on the Web is a new Obama for America video highlighting the grainy images of Romney asserting that many Obama voters see themselves as "victims" who deserve handouts from the government and who don't want to take responsibility for their own lives.

The video then shows interviews with people on the street reacting to the Romney statements.

"Victims?" says one woman. "I wouldn’t say so."

PHOTOS: Mitt Romney on the campaign trail

"I actually felt sick to my stomach," says a woman in a park that looks a lot like one next to Obama for America headquarters in Chicago.

Shortly after the video was released, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spent much of his daily briefing answering questions about the Romney video, after saying he would limit his response.

Then again, it's probably hard to bite your tongue when your opponent is caught on video saying that 47% of the electorate is made up of people who are "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them."

Carney wouldn't say if Obama had seen the video, but said the president holds a different view.

"When you're president of the United States, you are president of all the people, not just the people who voted for you," he told reporters. "And that's fundamental to who this president is, and it's fundamental to what guides him as he makes decisions."

Obama, of course, knows the perils of speaking too candidly at a private fundraiser, when a candidate may think he or she is only among the like-minded. Back in 2008, he was caught on audio tape telling a private audience at a California fundraiser that economically challenged people in small towns sometimes "cling to guns or religion" as an expression of their bitterness. It didn't play well outside that room.

PHOTOS: Obama on the campaign trail

Today, Carney said, Obama always says the same thing to fundraisers whether the media are present or not. He said the president speaks directly about his balanced approach to tax policy -- his way of saying "tax hikes for the wealthy" -- in the company of millionaires and billionaires.

Obama may have learned another lesson from the "guns and religion" episode. Hillary Rodham Clinton, then his rival for the party's nomination for president, pummeled him for days for "elitist and divisive" comments.

On Tuesday, the Obama team's response was mainly to marvel -- at the statements themselves, clearly, but maybe also at the fact that they were so clearly recorded that Romney isn't challenging the provenance of the video.

One man in the Obama Web piece simply rubs his chin and says, "Wow."

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

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