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Obama: Candidates' personal lives should not be 'primary issue'

"If I propose a health care bill that is full of Republican ideas — in fact, is very similar to the law that was passed by the current Republican front runner, or one of the top frontrunners the other guy was supportive of many of the ideas as well suddenly, they become against it," Obama said, alluding to the fact that both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich had previously voiced some support for a variation of the individual health care insurance mandate.But Obama said that he would focus his campaign on those policy issues, and that the Republican candidates' personal lives shouldn't be campaign fodder. Gingrich has been criticized by Republican foes for a history that includes a pair of divorces, while one-time leader Herman Cain was forced from the race after multiple allegations of sexual impropriety arose.

"I'm not big on someone's personal lives being poked and prodded and that ends up being the primary issue," Obama said. "We've got such big issues to deal with right now, and there are such substantial differences between certainly my position and any of the Republican candidates. That's what we should focus on."

Asked by Walters if his reelection battle would be hindered by sagging poll numbers that suggested "the American people find you a mediocre president," Obama said that the frustration was more with the economy than his leadership.

President Obama said that candidates personal lives shouldn't be the "primary issue" for voters and said that the American people did not find him to be a "mediocre president" during an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, excerpts of which were released Thursday.

The president also said that Republicans were refusing to compromise with him on policy because it was politically opportune, noting that leading Republican presidential candidates had previously supported his programs.

"If I propose a health care bill that is full of Republican ideas -- in fact, is very similar to the law that was passed by the current Republican front runner, or one of the top frontrunners -- the other guy was supportive of many of the ideas as well -- suddenly, they become against it," Obama said, alluding to the fact that both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich had previously voiced some support for a variation of the individual health care insurance mandate.

But Obama said that the Republican candidates personal lives shouldn't be campaign fodder. Gingrich has been criticized by Republican foes for a history that includes a pair of divorces, while one-time leader Herman Cain was forced from the race after multiple allegations of sexual impropriety arose.

"I think what it suggests is that we've gone through a very difficult time. And, in order for us to move forward, we're going to have to do more work," Obama said.

"So, you won't be a mediocre two-term president? " Walters asked.

"I want to be a really good two-term president," Obama said. "I think that the choices we've made have made America stronger, and have made the American people... put them in a better position in order to succeed over the long term. Short term, folks are still hurting."

The conversation also touched on the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Obama, who did not originally support the war, stopped short of characterizing the effort as "victorious."

"I would describe our troops as having succeeded in the mission of giving to the Iraqis their country in a way that gives them a chance for a successful future," he said.

But Obama praised the success and service of troops who fought in Iraq.

"Our troops are coming home with their heads held high, because despite an extraordinarily difficult situation, because of their sacrifice and their skill, they are handing over to Iraq a country that has had a democratic election, that is working in a political fashion instead of a violent fashion to solve difference," he said.

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