‘If you want to be president, you’ve got to work for everybody’

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It was late Monday when the political world first learned in earnest about the Mitt Romney video showing the Republican writing off 47 percent of the country, chastising them for considering themselves “victims” and failing to “take personal responsibility.” President Obama, his White House, and his campaign have generally said very little about the controversy since.

That changed last night when the president sat down with David Letterman, and the host asked about the story. Obama’s comments offered a pretty big hint as to how Democrats intend to use the controversy going forward.

For those who can’t watch clips online, I’ve included the transcript below, but it’s worth emphasizing that while the president used a light touch, his indictment wasn’t subtle.

Obama said he understands the importance of using his office to “work for everybody,” as if to say Romney’s secretly-recorded remarks prove otherwise. Indeed, the president’s comments painted a picture of a candidate who’s not only prepared to blow off nearly half of the country, but who doesn’t even understand the needs of working people – the folks Romney believes see themselves as “victims” looking for a handout.

The message going forward, then, is one that presents Romney as so hopelessly out of touch, he’s prepared to ignore the plight of working families nationwide – because he only sees himself as a candidate for some Americans, not all.

Expect to hear quite a bit more along these lines.

Here’s a transcript of the clip:

“When I won in 2008, 47 percent voted for John McCain; they didn’t vote for me. And what I said on election night was even though you didn’t vote for me, I hear your voices and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be your president.

“One of the things I learned as president is you represent the entire country. When I meet Republicans as I’m traveling around the country, they are hard-working, family people who care deeply about this country, and my expectation is that if you want to be president, you’ve got to work for everybody. Not just for some.

“The other thing you discover is, as you travel around the country, the American people, they work so hard. The progress we’ve made since the Great Recession, the progress we’ve made since the great recession is because you’ve got single moms out there who are working two, three jobs to help make sure their kids can go to college. And you’ve got small business owners who are keeping their doors open and keeping their employees on even though it means they may not be taking down a salary. And you go up to Detroit or Toledo and you see auto workers who take huge pride in the fact that they’re bouncing back. But they work hard. And you don’t meet anybody who doesn’t believe in the American dream and the fact that nobody’s entitled to success, that you’ve got to work hard, and so I promise you, there are not a lot of people out there who think they’re victims, there are not a lot of people who think that they’re entitled to something.

“What I think the majority of people, Democrats and Republicans, believe is that we’ve got some obligations to each other, and there’s nothing wrong with us giving each other a helping hand, so that if there’s that single mom’s kid, even after all the work she’s done, still can’t afford to go to college, for us to be able to give them, you know, some help on a student loan so they can end up being, curing the next disease or making sure that they’re starting the next Google, I think that’s a good investment for America, and that’s, if you want to be president and you want to bring people together, I think that’s the attitude that you’ve got to have.”

Though it’s not in the clip, Obama added that voters understand “mistakes” on the campaign trail, but what “people want to make sure of though is that you’re not writing off a big chunk of the country.”

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama

'If you want to be president, you've got to work for everybody'

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