President Obama sharpened his attack on Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's critical comments on the 47 percent of voters who don't pay federal income taxes, hammering his opponent during an appearance in the critical swing state of Virginia Friday for the caught-on-tape remarks at a private fundraiser that surfaced earlier this week.
"I don't believe we can get very far with leaders who write off half the nation as a bunch of victims, who think that they're not interested in taking responsibility for their own lives," Mr. Obama said at a campaign rally in Woodbridge, Va. "I don't see a lot of victims in the crowd today. I see a lot of hard-working Virginians."
Virginia went for Mr. Obama in 2008, the first time the state had voted for a Democrat for president since 1964, and Mr. Obama has been intently focused on keeping the state in his camp come November.
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, told reporters earlier this week that Mr. Obama planned to use the 47 percent comments in an aggressive strategy aimed at casting Mr. Romney as out of touch with nearly half the nation who work hard and are still struggling to make ends meet.
Mr. Obama pushed back on Mr. Romney's criticism of comments he made this week that he couldn't change Washington from the inside after running as a candidate of change. Mr. Romney pledged to change Washington, noting, "We'll get the job done from the inside."
During remarks in Woodbridge, Mr. Obama mocked Mr. Romney's wording.
"What kind of inside job is he talking about?" Mr. Obama asked, telling supporters that Mr. Romney would rely on lobbyist and politicians to outsource jobs, stop gay marriage and limit women's reproductive choices.
Trying to sway older Americans that Mr. Romney doesn't understand their problems, Mr. Obama said Mr. Romney disparaged seniors for being part of the U.S. population that does not pay income taxes.
Speaking via satellite to the huge seniors lobby AARP's convention Friday, Mr. Obama told the crowd that programs like Medicare and Social Security are not "handouts" and pledging to protect the programs for today's seniors, as well as their grandchildren.
"You paid into these programs your whole life. You earned them," he said.
Republicans' discussion about Medicare, he said "hasn't been completely on the level," arguing that Mr. Romney and running mate Paul Ryan would recast the health care program in a way that would increase costs for future seniors.
Mr. Ryan made his own appearance at the AARP's convention in New Orleans, bringing along his 78-year-old mother, in an attempt to reassure attendees that he and Mr. Romney care about seniors and want to preserve the program and make sure it's solvent for future generations.
"Mitt Romney and I share your concerns," Mr. Ryan said, according to prepared remarks. "And we respect you enough to level with you. We respect all the people of this country enough to talk about the clear choices we face on Medicare, Social Security, the economy, and the kind of country our children will inherit."
• This story was based in part on wire service reports.
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