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Transcript of AP interview with President Obama

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So probably the most prominent argument that he’s been making for why voters should vote for him is this notion that Obama took the work requirement out of welfare, and he’ll put it back. The problem is, is that every fact-checker, every reporter who has actually looked at this says this is just made up, that, in fact, the president and his administration has been willing to say to states that want to put more people back to work, get more people off of welfare, they’re willing to give them some additional flexibility, but that there has been no attempt to eliminate the work requirement.

And so if that’s the central premise or the central argument that you’re making and it’s based on something that’s just not true, it will be, I think, a little bit tougher to defend face-to-face in a debate.

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Q. You must be thinking about what his motivation is for continuing to run those ads and make that point. Why do you think he’s doing it? Who do you think he’s targeting?

Obama: Well, I think that if you don’t have a good argument for how you’re going to make things better, then you stay focused on how you can discredit the incumbent. That’s sort of standard politics. And I think Governor Romney understands that if people understand his actual positions on things like tax cuts for the wealthy, or how we reduce the deficit, or his approach to Medicare, that they don’t do very well. And so I think his chosen approach — with the help of these super PACs and folks writing $10 million checks — is to see if for the undecided voter who’s feeling the pinch coming out of this recession, who’s still having a tough time, whether they can get a sense, well, maybe Obama is not looking out for me.

And what gives me some confidence is I know every single day when I wake up in the morning and every night when I go to bed, the question I’m asking myself is: Have I helped hardworking people who are responsible and following the rules and doing everything they can to look after their families and do right by their communities — have I helped them in some small way to give them a fair shot? And am I making sure that everybody is doing their fair share and following the same set of rules?

And everything that I’ve done over the last three-and-a-half years has been centered on those hardworking Americans who are trying to achieve the American dream. That gives me a lot of confidence going forward — not that everything we’ve done has worked as fast as I’d like or exactly as we want, but it gives me confidence that we have pushed this country to start moving in the right direction and we shouldn’t be going backwards.

Q. I’m getting the sign here, I’m going to try to squeeze in a couple more, with your patience.

Obama: Sure.

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Q. I wanted to follow up on one other thing on Romney. One of your advisors, David Plouffe, said once that he doesn’t think Romney has a core — speaking about what he stands for. Do you agree with that?

Obama: I can’t speak to Governor Romney’s motivations. What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some of the things that he’s talked about.

I don’t think that he would back off a $5 trillion tax cut at this point. He’s made that the centerpiece of his economic argument. I don’t think that if Congress presented him with some of the items that are in the Republican platform at this convention that would, for example, entirely roll back women’s control over their reproductive health, that he would stand in the way.

He said that he would eliminate tax credits that are going to wind producers, even though we’ve doubled the production of wind energy. I suspect that he has to follow through on those commitments.

And so, when I look back on 2008, the promises that I made — I said I’d end the war in Iraq; I did. I said that I’d go after al-Qaida and bin Laden; we did. I said that I’d give middle-class families a tax cut; they’re paying on average about $3,600 less than they were when I came into office. I said that I would make sure that every American family has some security when it comes to health insurance; we got it done. I said that I would help young people get more affordable college, and we got that done.

So we haven’t gotten everything done that I promised, but a big chunk of what I said I would do in 2008 we have done. And I’ve got to assume that Governor Romney would do the same thing. And so, regardless of his motivations, the question then becomes is what he’s proposing actually going to help hardworking families all across the country. I don’t think they will.

If you’re a voter and you believe that the biggest problem we have is that the president has put too many regulations in place to keep our air clean and our water clean, if you believe that the way to reduce the deficit is to gut our investments in education and transportation and cut taxes for wealthy individuals — then you should feel confident that Governor Romney is going to follow through on those commitments. I just don’t think they’ll work.

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