Campaigns escalate battle over dueling quotes

Mitt Romney, still smarting from the release of a recording in which he tells backers that a huge chunk of Obama supporters who "don't pay taxes" will never vote for him, stuck by his comments while at the same time hammering the president for embracing "redistribution" of wealth.

At issue were two recordings which have swiftly turned the presidential campaign away from a foreign policy debate ignited by last week's murder of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Libya -- and back to the issue of jobs and the economy.

One video, from a fundraiser earlier this year, showed Romney saying a huge chunk of President Obama's supporters don't pay taxes, believe they are "victims" and will back the president "no matter what." The other tape, an audio recording from a 1998 conference, showed a young Obama saying he believes in "redistribution."

Obama used an appearance on "The Late Show With David Letterman" to take a jab at the Romney comments. After the late-night host played the tape and teed up an Obama response, the president said it's important not to write off part of the country. "If you want to be president you have to work for everybody, not just for some," he said.

The Romney campaign, though, used the "redistribution" quote to get back on the offensive.

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Romney Campaign Manager Matt Rhoades released a memo Wednesday morning slamming the president over the "redistribution" clip, saying it speaks to the "different visions" each candidate has for America.

"Mitt Romney's vision for America is an opportunity society, where free people and free enterprise thrive and success is admired and emulated, not attacked. President Obama's vision for America is a government-centered society, where government grows bigger and more active, occupying more of our everyday lives," he wrote.

"We don't have to look far to see the failure of President Obama's approach. We can look at his record," he wrote, citing the high unemployment, allegedly heavy regulatory burden and millions of people in poverty and/or on food stamps.

The Obama recording purportedly was from a 1998 conference at Loyola University. In it, the young Obama tells the audience he believes there has been "a propaganda campaign against the possibility of government action and its efficacy."

"I think that what we're going to have to do is somehow resuscitate the notion that government action can be effective at all," Obama says. "I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution -- because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."

After the tape surfaced on YouTube and quickly soared through the Internet, the Obama campaign accused Romney of trying to change the subject -- and likened the debate to the controversy in 2008 over a tape showing Obama saying he wants to "spread the wealth around" in a chat with "Joe the Plumber."

"The Romney campaign is so desperate to change the subject that they've gone back to the failed playbook co-authored by Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber," campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "Fourteen years ago, then-Senator Obama was making an argument for a more efficient, more effective government -- specifically citing city government agencies that he didn't think were working effectively.  He believed then, and believes now, that there are steps we can take to promote opportunity and ensure that all Americans have a fair shot if they work hard.  Unlike Governor Romney, he doesn't believe that if you're a student who applies for a loan you're looking for a handout."

The Obama campaign already put out a web video on the Romney donor remarks. In the video, people are asked to watch the remarks and react. It shows one woman saying the video made her feel "sick." A pro-Obama super PAC also released a TV ad Wednesday featuring the comments and accusing Romney of not being on the side of the middle class.

The Romney video, from a May fundraiser in Florida, was circulated after it was obtained and posted by Mother Jones.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney could be heard saying in the clip, referring to those who don't pay federal income tax. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."

Romney said that, as a presidential candidate, he didn't have to "worry about those people."

Romney defended his comments in the interview with Fox News on Tuesday -- and then cited the Obama recording to underscore his point that he and the president come at the job with two entirely different philosophies.

"Frankly, we have two very different views about America," Romney said. "The president's view is one of a larger government. There's a tape that just came out today (with) the president saying he likes redistribution. I disagree.

"I think a society based upon a government-centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that's the wrong course for America. ... The right course for America is to create growth, create wealth."