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Transcript of AP interview with President Obama

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Q. You just framed it as a choice, and of course we’ve heard that from you and your campaign for months. But what about the person who basically says: I gave him a chance, I hired him, I’m not happy, I might fire him? I mean, don’t people make decisions that way and then decide let’s give the new guy a chance?

Obama: If they saw Governor Romney offering serious proposals that offered some sort of concrete ways in which middle-class families would be helped, then I could understand them thinking about that choice. But that’s not what’s happening.

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Let’s be very concrete about a problem we all agree needs to be resolved and that is the deficit and debt. Now, this didn’t happen overnight. It happened because we had tax cuts that weren’t paid for, two wars fought on a credit card and then a massive economic crisis.

What I’ve said is, let’s reduce our deficit and debt in a balanced, sensible way. Let’s make sure that 98 percent of families, folks making $250,000 a year or less, aren’t seeing their taxes — their income taxes go up a single dime next year. And I’ve said to the Republicans, I’m ready to sign that bill tomorrow.

Governor Romney’s approach is to cut taxes $5 trillion, but because so much of the benefit goes to wealthy individuals, independent analysts say that’s going to cost middle-class families an extra $2,000 in tax burden. So you’ve got a very clear choice for that voter — I’ve got somebody who’s willing to keep my taxes low at the same time as he’s able to help me afford sending my kid to college, and is going to continue to invest in things like advanced manufacturing, and change the tax code so we’re not giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas but instead give those tax breaks to companies that are building in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh and throughout the United States.

And you’ve got a guy who will end up costing me an extra $2,000 in taxes to give breaks to folks who’ve already done very well. And in that circumstance, I think the average American is going to say: I want somebody who’s on my side, fighting for me, thinking about me.

It doesn’t mean that folks are going to be satisfied with the pace that we’re on. People are going to want to see it accelerated. And, frankly, we would be in a stronger position if the proposal I put forward almost a year ago that had provided help to states to rehire teachers and firefighters and police officers, and put construction workers back to work, rebuilding our roads and our bridges — if those proposals had been put in place, we’d have an estimated additional million jobs.

The problem we’ve got right now is we’ve got a Republican Congress that is closely aligned with Governor Romney’s perspective that is blocking some of the progress that we could be making.

Q. Well, that’s exactly what I want to ask you about next. Let’s say you win — okay, that’s a hypothetical that you would probably buy into. But say you win, but the House Republicans win again also, a likely possibility. How is that any different from what we have now? Why wouldn’t a voter look at that and say that’s a recipe for stalemate. How would you do anything differently?

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Obama: Well, there are a couple things that I think change. No. 1, the American people will have voted. They will have cast a decisive view on how we should move the country forward, and I would hope that the Republican Party, after a fulsome debate, would say to itself, we need to listen to the American people.

I think what is also true is that because of the mechanisms that have been set up, agreed to by Republicans, that have already cut a trillion dollars’ worth of spending out of the federal deficit, but now we’ve got to find an additional trillion — $1.2 trillion, I guess — before the end of the year, means that the Republicans will have to make a very concrete decision about whether they’re willing to cooperate on a balanced package.

If they don’t, then I’m going to have to look at how we can work around Congress to make sure that middle-class families are protected, but that we’re still doing our — meeting our responsibilities when it comes to deficit reduction and investing in the future.

Q. But, I mean, I can certainly see Republicans, led by Speaker Boehner, saying the same thing — the American people voted, we’re back in power, too. They’re not going to change their position on taxes, on climate change, on immigration. So I mean, if you could — if I could just push a little further on that, how do you see that dynamic changing?

Obama: Well, look, there are some proposals that they put forward that we’re not going to compromise on because I believe it would be bad for the country and bad for middle-class families.

I don’t think it would be a good idea to pursue an approach that voucherizes Medicare and raises taxes on middle-class families to give wealthy individuals a tax break. So if that’s the mandate that Republicans receive, then there’s still going to be some serious arguments here in Washington.

But what I’m offering the American people is a balanced approach that the majority agrees with, including a lot of Republicans. And for me to be able to say to the Republicans, the election is over; you no longer need to be focused on trying to beat me; what you need to be focused on and what you should have been focused on from the start is how do we advance the American economy — I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises, some of which I get criticized from the Democratic Party on, in order to make progress. But we’re going to need compromise on your side as well. And the days of viewing compromise as a dirty word need to be over because the American people are tired of it.

That’s, I think, a message that will resonate not with every Republican, but I think with a lot of fair-minded Republican legislators who probably feel somewhat discouraged about having served in one of the least productive Congresses in American history.

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