Obama Drops 'Off the Record' on Interview, Predicts Grand Bargain

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Facing a barrage of criticism from Republicans and the press, the Obama campaign Wednesday released a transcript of an "off-the-record" interview between President Obama and the Des Moines Register editorial board.

The White House had repeatedly rejected appeals from the paper to make the 30-minute phone conversation on the record, but abruptly reversed course when the paper published criticism of the decision. The paper is preparing to endorse a presidential candidate on Saturday. Obama campaign officials did not comment on why they had a change of heart.

The president spoke candidly with the paper about his prospects for a second term and for a bipartisan deal to avert the fiscal cliff at the end of the year.

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"Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community," Obama told the paper, noting that immigration reform legislation would be a top priority.

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"This is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they're going to have a deep interest in getting that done," he said of Republicans and immigration reform.

The president said a victory on Nov. 6 would also resolve partisan gridlock over taxes, predicting Republicans would consent to revenue increases akin to what had been part of the so-called "Grand Bargain" last year.

"When you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place, the commitment of both myself and my opponent - at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit - but we're going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business," Obama said.

"It will probably be messy. It won't be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I've been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs," he said.

The comments emerged Wednesday after the Register penned a column Tuesday night chastising the president for a lack of transparency and noting that Republican nominee Mitt Romney had granted an in-person, on-the-record interview with the paper's editorial board on Oct. 9.

"We repeatedly - and politely - have asked Obama 2012 campaign officials in Iowa and Chicago for the same access to the president. I believe it earned serious consideration. But despite at least 28 campaign stops and 11 days in our state, we never could convince his team to carve out a few moments for our editorial board - in our office, on the trail or even in a barn somewhere in Iowa," the paper wrote.

"We were told it was not their decision; it came from the White House. We requested that the White House be asked to reverse course so whatever the president shared with us could be reviewed by voters and our readers. No reason was given for the unusual condition of keeping it private."

The paper, which endorsed Obama four years ago in 2008, says it will announce its coveted 2012 endorsement on Saturday night.