Obama: "47 percent" remark suggests Romney hasn't "gotten around a lot"

President Obama participates in a town hall hosted by "Univision" at the University of Miami on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, in Coral Gables, Fla.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
President Obama participates in a town hall hosted by "Univision" at the University of Miami on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, in Coral Gables, Fla.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

(CBS News) Mitt Romney's comment that 47 percent of Americans won't vote for him because they consider themselves "victims" in need of government support suggests he hasn't "gotten around a lot," President Obama said of the GOP nominee Thursday during Univision's "Meet the Candidates" forum in Coral Gables, Fla.

Less than 24 hours since Romney took the "Univision" hot seat, attempting to explain away the secretly recorded remarks and convince voters that his campaign "is about the 100 percent," moderator Jorge Ramos took the opportunity to ask the president during his turn about who he thinks is "the real Mitt Romney." After joining the audience in laughing at the question, Mr. Obama said that inquiry "is better directed to Mr. Romney - but I will say this: 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."

Arguing for the American people as "the hardest working people there are," the president said the reason some end up on government assistance is not because "they're not working hard enough, or they don't want to work, or they're being taxed too little, or they just want to loaf around and gather government checks. We've gone through a challenging time. People want a hand up, not a handout.

"Are there people who abuse the system? Yes - both at the bottom and at the top," he continued. "Because there are a whole bunch of millionaires who aren't paying taxes at all, either." On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested Romney was among those who don't pay income tax.

(Watch: Obama on "47 %": Maybe Romney hasn't "gotten around.")

"The day I was elected, that night in Grant Park where I spoke to the country, I said 47 percent of the people didn't vote for me, but I've heard your voices, and I'm gonna work just as hard for you as I will for those who did vote for me.

"That's how you have to operate as a president," Mr. Obama said to lengthy applause. "I truly believe that."

Almost half of the roughly 30-minute program was devoted to immigration reform, as Ramos pressed on Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign promise to pass an immigration reform bill in the first of his presidency. Switching from his usual Spanish to English because "this is very important - I don't want it to get lost in translation," Ramos laid out for the president: "You promised. And a promise is a promise. And with all due respect, you didn't keep that promise."

Laying the blame square at the feet of House Republicans, Mr. Obama said he was "naive" and did not expect that Republicans like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., "who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform... and who attended these meetings, suddenly would walk away." He also said the "whole series of emergency actions" his administration had to take on amid a floundering economy "took up a huge amount of time."

(Watch: Obama: I was "naive" on immigration promise.)

Mr. Obama further defended himself against critics who say the White House's move in June to stop deporting young undocumented immigrants who fall under certain criteria of the DREAM Act was merely political.

"If you take a look at polls," he said, "I was winning the Latino vote before we took that action, partly because the other side had completely abandoned their commitment to things like comprehensive immigration reform."

The president also made some bold statements when asked about the botched U.S. gunwalking operation, "Fast and Furious," insisting "almost all" the documents relating to the scandal have been released, and that "the people who did initiate this were held accountable."

Attorney General Eric Holder, mired in controversy over the operation - including a House vote to hold him in contempt of Congress - "has my complete confidence," Mr. Obama said. "He has shown himself to be willing to hold accountable those who took these actions and is passionate about making sure that we're preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands."

Asked toward the end of the forum what the biggest failure of his administration has been, Mr. Obama said with a grin, "Well, Jorge, as you remind me - our biggest failure so far is we haven't gotten comprehensive immigration reform done. So we're going to be continuing to work on that."

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