With 50 days left for the elections, this week witnessed an intensifying verbal exchange between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney after the latter alleged that the 47 per cent of the U.S. population likely to vote for Mr. Obama did not pay income tax and had an “entitlement” approach towards government largesse.

Following Mr. Romney’s comments on Monday — a leaked video of which showed him also making critical remarks about Palestinians not wanting peace with Israel — Mr. Obama hit back on the “Late Show” with anchor David Letterman, saying, “My expectation is that if you’re president, you’ve got to work for everyone, not just some.”

After a secretly filmed recording of his comments was published online by Mother Jones, a non-profit news organisation, it was noted that 10 out of 11 national polls of individuals most likely to vote put Mr. Obama ahead of Mr. Romney by around 3 percentage points — 48.5 per cent compared to Mr. Romney’s 45.5 per cent.

Mr. Obama’s remarks to Mr. Letterman — publicised ahead of the show airing — did not address Mr. Romney’s suggestion that “the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace”.

However, the President appeared to seek to use the opportunity to reach out to Republicans and undecided and independent voters, saying, “When I meet Republicans as I’m travelling around the country, they are hard working, family people, who care deeply about this country and my expectation is that if you want to be President you got to work for everybody not just for some.”

Damage control

He added, “People understand, I think, that you’re going to make mistakes on the campaign trail. What I think people want to make sure of, though, is that you’re not writing off a big chunk of the country.” While Mr. Romney swung into damage-control mode after the controversy erupted, admitting that his remarks were “not elegantly stated”, he stood by the overall themes of his speech, particularly his belief that Mr. Obama’s approach was “attractive to people who are not paying taxes”.

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