Obama Campaign Jumps on Romney Comments on 'the Very Poor'

(Image Credit: Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

Fresh off his victory in the Florida primary, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney handed his Democratic opponents a new quote for them to use in such a way as to suggest he's a heartless rich guy, the caricature Democrats are determined to draw of him.

In an interview this morning on CNN, anchor Soledad O'Brien asked Romney about a new poll indicating that when it comes to "understanding the needs of average Americans," President Obama scored 55 percent while he merited 39 percent.

Romney said voters want to elect someone who "actually knows how it takes to improve their life, get home values rising again, to get jobs again in this country, and to make sure when soldiers come home they have a job waiting for them. And make sure people who are retired don't have to worry about what's going to happen at the end of the week."

He added: "I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling, and I'll continue to take that message across the nation." Before lunch, Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina had tweeted : "So much for 'we're all in this together.' Romney today: 'I'm not concerned about the very poor'"

O'Brien had pressed Romney to explain what he meant. "You just said I'm not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say that sounds odd. Can you explain that?"

"Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I'm not concerned about the very poor that have the safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them…The - the challenge right now - we will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and - and there's no question. It's not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor. But my campaign is focused on middle-income America. My campaign - you can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That's not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That's not my focus. My focus is on middle income Americans, retirees living on social security, people who cannot find work, folks who have kids that are getting ready to go to college. That - these are the people who've been most badly hurt during the Obama years."

However Romney meant the comment, as with "I like being able to fire people" - which in context he meant about consumers being able to choose insurance companies - the Obama campaign may be caricaturing Romney, but the former Massachusetts governor is handing them the magic markers.

-Jake Tapper