White House press secretary Jay Carney blasted Mitt Romney's statement that the president had prevailed in last week's election because of "gifts" given by the administration to black, Hispanic and young voters, saying that conclusion was "at odds with the truth of what happened last week."
"Making it easier for Americans to go to college — that’s good for America," Carney continued. "It’s good for all Americans. It’s good for the economy. Making healthcare available to young people who can stay on their parents’ plans — that’s good for those families, it’s good for those young people so they aren’t bankrupted in their 20s by an illness. And it’s good for the economy and it’s good for all of us."
In the remarks, made on a Wednesday conference call with donors, Romney said moves like the president's healthcare reform legislation and a decision to suspend deportations of certain illegal immigrants who came to the country as children proved "highly motivational" on Election Day. Romney also said he had "gotten beat up pretty bad" on issues including his immigration stance and personal wealth.
Carney defended the president's initiatives, saying Obama was pursuing "policies that have at their core a desire to build the middle class, strengthen the middle class, make the middle class more secure, because that’s what makes America more secure."
In arguing that the election had validated the president's policy priorities, Carney echoed a theme that both he and the president have emphasized in recent days — the notion that Democrats held a mandate to pursue their agenda going forward, including in the coming negotiations on the "fiscal cliff" of automatic spending cuts and tax increases.
Carney again emphasized Thursday the "math" had to add up on the fiscal cliff, and pledged that the president would not "under any circumstances" sign legislation that continues tax breaks for the top 2 percent of American taxpayers.
On Wednesday, when the president was asked if there was "any room of negotiating on that specific aspect of the fiscal cliff," he seemed to provide himself more wiggle room on the issue.
"I am open to new ideas," Obama said. "If the Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity and the middle class isn't hit, decreases the deficit, increases growth — I want to hear ideas from everybody."
Carney spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to New York to tour residual damage from Superstorm Sandy.
According to the White House, the president will take an aerial tour where he will view the damage to Far Rockaway, including the Breezy Point neighborhood, and Staten Island. Top officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan are expected to brief the president during the tour of the damage.