SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - President Barack Obama declared Tuesday night the occupant of the Oval Office must "work for everyone, not just for some," attacking Mitt Romney for his statement that half the country supports the president because they feel they are entitled to assistance from the government.
Romney neither disavowed nor apologized for his remarks, which included an observation half of the people in the U.S. believe they are victims and entitled to a range of government support. Instead, Romney cast his comment as evidence of a fundamental difference with Obama over the economy, adding the federal government should not "take from some to give to the others."
As the rivals sparred with seven weeks remaining in a close race for the White House, the campaign was ignited by the emergence of a videotape, made last May, in which Romney told donors at a fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans pay no income taxes. They support Obama because they "believe the government has a responsibility to care for them ... believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement."
Mickey Corsi of Bedford, Texas, protests outside a Tuesday fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Dallas.
He said, "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
In a next-day interview on Fox, Romney said he didn't intend to write off any part of a deeply divided electorate, including seniors who are among those who often pay no taxes. Instead, he repeatedly sought to reframe his remarks as a philosophical difference of opinion between himself and Obama.
"I'm not going to get" votes from Americans who believe government's job is to redistribute wealth," he said, adding that was something Obama believes in.
He also said he wants to be president so he can help hard-pressed Americans find work and earn enough so they become income taxpayers.
Romney didn't say so, but the U.S. income tax is designed to be progressive, so those who earn the most pay the most. Through programs as diverse as Social Security, Medicare, health care and food stamps, the government collects tax revenue and pays it out in the form of benefits for those who qualify.
Obama responded during an appearance on the David Letterman show.
"One thing I've learned as president is that you represent the entire country," he said. As for Romney's statement about the 47 percent, he said, "There are not a lot of people out there who think they are victims" or simply entitled.