‘You can’t change Washington from the inside’

September 20, 2012

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Even as he criticized the GOP for failing to work with him, President Obama said a forum aimed at Latino voters Thursday that one of his biggest failures in office was his inability “to change the tone in Washington.”

“I’ve learned some lessons,” he said at the University of Miami forum, hosted by Univision. “Most important is you can’t change Washington from inside, only from the outside. That’s how some of our biggest accomplishments like health care got done — mobilizing the American people.”

If he wins a second term, the president added, “I want to concentrate having a much more constant conversation with the American people so they can put pressure on Congress to move issues forward.”

Republicans -- including presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- are arguing that if Obama can't change Washington as president, than he shouldn't be president. 

"The President today threw in the white flag of surrender again," Romney said at a rally in Sarasota, Fla. He said he can’t change Washington from inside. He can only change it from outside. Well, we’re going to give him that chance in November. He’s going outside I can change Washington. I will change Washington. We’ll get the job done from the inside." 

Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith dismissed Romney's criticism as a distortion of the president's words. 

"What the President said today is no different than what he has been saying for many years – that change comes from outside Washington, not inside," she said. "Mitt Romney apparently doesn't believe that change comes from the American people."

During his 2008 campaign, Romney himself told reporters, "I don't think you change Washington from the inside. I think you change it from the outside."

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Laura Vozzella | September 20, 2012