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Obama pushes back on Romney over changing Washington

September 21, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster )

WOODBRIDGE, Va. -- President Obama hit back at his GOP rival on Friday in a punchy speech that mocked his GOP opponent's claim that he's more likely to deliver change to Washington.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had pounced on the president for saying he had learned in his term in the White House that Washington can’t be changed from the inside. Only advocacy and engagement from ordinary Americans can force change, Obama told an interviewer on Thursday. 

Romney said the president was throwing “in the white flag of surrender again.”

But on Friday, Obama had prepared a comeback:

“He stood up at a rally, proudly declared, ‘I’ll get the job done from the inside.’” Obama said of Romney. “What kind of inside job is he talking about? Is it the job of rubber stamping the top-down, you’re-on-your-own agenda of this Republican Congress? ‘cause if it is, we don’t want it."

Obama, who is enjoying a surge in the polls in battleground states, made the remark in a speech full of pointed digs at his wounded opponent.

Obama wasted little time pouncing on Romney’s damaging assessment of the 47% of households who don't pay federal income taxes.  In secretly recorded remarks made public this week, Romney described that group as people who see themselves as victims and don’t take responsibility for their lives.  

“I don’t see a lot of victims in this crowd today,” Obama said, as he greeted the estimated at 12,000 people gathered in a minor league ballpark, home of the Potomac Nationals.

As the fallout from the comment unfolded earlier this week, the Obama campaign watched gleefully but at some distance, letting surrogates and web videos kick the Republican nominee while he was down.  But as the president set out on a campaign swing, he did not resist getting in his licks.

“I see hard-working Virginians,” he said.

Obama also folded the Romney fumble into his larger theme -- that Romney is out of touch with the middle class and out of the mainstrean in his views on government. On Friday, Obama aimed for high-flying rhetoric on that theme, casting Republicans, though not Romney directly, as divisive and bigoted.

Government isn’t the solution to all our problems, but it isn’t the source, either, Obama said, reviving a line from his convention acceptance speech in Charlotte.

“We don’t think anybody is the source of all our problems. Not welfare recipients, not corporations, not unions, not immigrants, not gays. Not all the other groups that we’re told to blame for our troubles,” Obama said, expanding on the theme. “Because we believe that here in America we’re all in it together. We believe that America only works when we accept responsibility for ourselves but also certain responsibility for each other and for our country.”

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

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