President Obama paints Romney as ignorant of Americans
And when later asked about the video of Romney secretly recorded at a May fundraiser, he made his harshest criticism yet of the Republican's statement that nearly half of Americans who pay no federal income tax are dependent upon government and believe they are victims.
"Their problem is not that they're not working hard enough or they don't want to work or they're being taxed too little or they just want to loaf around and gather government checks," Obama said. "We've gone through a challenging time. People want a hand up and not a handout."
He was drowned out in applause when he added that millionaires, too, are among the people who abuse the system by not paying taxes. Romney told the Sarasota donors that he's looking forward to focusing the debate back on the economy during next month's debates.
"He's a very eloquent speaker," Romney said of Obama, "and so I'm sure in the debates, as last time in his debates with Senator McCain, he'll be very eloquent in describing his vision.
But he can't win by his words, because his record speaks so loudly in our ears. What he has done in the last four years is establish an economy that's bumping along the bottom."
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina also tried to raise expectations for the rival's performance in a memo arguing that Romney has emerged from weeks of intense debate preparations "quick, polished and ready with a punchy attack against the president."
"He's obviously banking on flawless performances in October to achieve the turnaround his campaign has projected," Messina wrote.
But Messina said Americans won't score the debates on style points alone, and argued that Romney is lacking on specifics and alternatives to the president's policies on issues like immigration.
The Univision forum was scheduled because no minority journalists were selected to moderate the three presidential debates. In 2008, Obama carried Hispanics by 67 percent to Sen. John McCain's 31 percent, according to exit polls. Recent polls suggest that Obama enjoys a similar lead against Romney.
During his secretly recorded remarks to donors, Romney said he was worried about the Hispanic trend.
"We're having a much harder time with Hispanic voters, and if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting bloc has in the past, why, we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation," Romney said.
He joked that he'd have an easier time getting elected if he were Latino. Romney was pulling resources from one heavily Hispanic state.
New Mexico Republican Party spokeswoman Jamie Dickerson said Thursday that the campaign's Hispanic outreach director and communications director were among those being moved as part of a shift in campaign resources.
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