President Obama jumped into the latest furor surrounding his Republican challenger Tuesday night by accusing Mitt Romney of "writing off a big chunk of the country" and being too divisive.
Obama made the comments during a lengthy chat with late-night talk show host David Letterman. Obama needled Romney for criticizing 47 percent of Americans who, the GOP candidate said in a controversial video, don't have a sense of personal responsibility and rely on government handouts.
Obama said 47 percent of the American people voted for his Republican opponent John McCain in 2008, and he didn't hold it against them. As president, "you represent the entire country," Obama noted. "....My expectation is if you want to be president you've got to work for everybody, not just for some." And it's wrong to be "writing off a big chunk of the country," he added.
Obama said most Americans believe that "Nobody's entitled to success. You've got to work hard." But government should also provide a helping hand, he argued.
Obama didn't make much news, but that wasn't the point. His goal was to show his geniality, his steadiness, and his commitment to promoting the success of the middle class while portraying Romney as a gaffe-prone megamilliionaire who isn't ready for prime time.
For his part, Letterman was respectful and occasionally expressed admiration for Obama. But the late-night host did remind the president that he had made a serious gaffe of his own in the 2008 campaign by telling a private gathering that voters in Pennsylvania clung to their "guns and their religion" because times were so hard. Obama told Letterman that he quickly realized he'd made a mistake after delivering those remarks in 2008 and apologized.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook and Twitter.