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Romney says he was 'completely wrong' on '47 percent' comment

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Thursday night he was “completely wrong” when he made comments about the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay taxes at a secretly recorded fundraiser in May.

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Following the first presidential debate that most observers gave to Romney, many critics faulted President Obama for not bringing up Romney’s "47 percent" remarks or his tenure at Bain Capital, two issues the campaign has hit Romney hard on in advertising.

Appearing on “Hannity” on Fox News, Romney was asked what his defense would have been if Obama had attacked his remarks.

“Well, clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question and answer sessions, now and then, you are going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” Romney said. “In this case, I said something that was just completely wrong.”

In a press briefing shortly after the comments became public, Romney said his choice of words were “inelegantly” stated.

Echoing his debate performance, he said the rich were doing fine under Obama. Rather, it is the middle class and the poor who would be hurt by an Obama reelection, he said.

“The gap between the rich and the poor has gotten larger. The rich will probably do fine if he is reelected,” Romney said. “It is the middle class that is in real trouble. And the poor. I want the poor to get into the middle class. So many have fallen into poverty by virtue of his policies. So this for me is all about the 100 percent.”

White House Advisor David Plouffe told reporters Thursday that the “47 percent” comments were already “baked into the cake” of the American voter. But he said an attack wasn’t completely ruled out before the debate.

“Sure, there might have been an exchange where that came up,” he told reporters.

Following Wednesday’s debate, the Obama campaign has hammered the voracity of Romney’s claims about his tax plan.

“We had our first debate last night,” Obama said at an outdoor event at Sloan’s Lake Park in Denver on Thursday. “When I got onto the stage I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country all year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy. The fellow onstage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.”

Romney said it was a reaction to the president’s poor debate performance.

“Obviously the president wasn’t happy with the response to our debate last night ... it is the same message I have been saying across America,” Romney said.

Romney also praised debate moderator Jim Lehrer, who was panned by many critics for not asking pointed questions and not holding the candidates to time constrains. Lehrer had to almost completely scrap the segment on governance because he ran short on time.

“It was an evening of substance," Romney said. “I am happy that Jim Lehrer was willing to ask us our positions on issues and we could describe those. I wasn’t a big gotcha night, coming from the moderator.”

Foreign policy was left out of the debate, which focused on the economy and domestic issues. But Romney previewed an attack on Obama for the next debate. He said Obama’s handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi have “lacked transparency” and the event itself was a “tragic failure.”

“I believe what happened there was a tragic failure,” Romney said. “There had been warning of a possible attack. There were requests on the part of our commission there, or diplomats there rather to have additional security forces. They were turned down. And then following the tragedy we have misleading information coming from the administration. And in fact the president didn’t acknowledge this was a terrorist act for, what, a week or two .... we expect candor and transparency from the administration and we didn’t get it.”

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