President Obama, with his campaign looking to make the most of Mitt Romney's "victims" comment, personally ratcheted up the criticism by describing his Republican rival as out of touch in a televised town hall forum. But Romney fired back, seizing on a comment Obama made at the same event to claim the president had just waved "the white flag of surrender" on change.
The Republican presidential nominee hammered Obama for saying in his lengthy interview with Spanish-language channel Univision that he "can't change Washington from the inside." Romney contrasted that against Obama's crowd-rallying vows to bring change to Washington when he ran in 2008. In short, Romney said it's time for a change once again.
"The president today threw in the white flag of surrender again. He said he can't change Washington from inside, he can only change it from outside," Romney said in Sarasota, Fla. "Well, we're going to give him that chance in November. He's going outside!
"I can change Washington, I will change Washington. We'll get the job done from the inside. Republicans and Democrats will come together. He can't do it."
The Republican National Committee also released a web video on the comment Friday. Party Chairman Reince Priebus said Obama has gone from "yes we can" to "no I can't."
Obama adviser David Axelrod, though, said on NBC's "Today" that Romney was "just cascading from one gratuitous attack to another."
The Obama campaign has been trying to keep Romney and the media focused on another comment - Romney's remarks to donors in a hidden-camera video in which he described Obama supporters as "victims" who don't pay taxes and will back the president no matter what.
Obama personally chided Romney for the remarks in his interview on Univision.
"When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government, my thinking is maybe you haven't gotten around a lot, because I travel around the country all the time and the American people are the hardest working there are," Obama said.
The Obama campaign released a web video of its own pointing out that many of those who don't pay taxes are seniors. The video featured brief clips of seniors defending themselves against the Romney comment and ended with the text: "Romney says nearly 20 million seniors believe they are victims." The campaign then released another video defending the president's remarks on change, and contrasting them against Romney's hidden-video moment.
It was in the Univision interview that Obama discussed the idea of bringing change to Washington.
"The fact that we haven't been able to change the tone in Washington is disappointing," Obama said, in response to a question about his greatest failure. "The most important lesson I've learned is you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside."
He didn't explicitly state how he defines that distinction, but he suggested change "from the outside" means getting more ordinary Americans involved in the process.
"That's how I got elected, and that's how the big accomplishments like health care got done, was because we mobilized the American people to speak out," he said. "That's how we were able to cut taxes for middle-class families.