WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday that he's "not concerned about the very poor" because they have an "ample safety net" and he's focused instead on relieving the suffering of middle-class people hit hard by the bad economy.
In comments likely to become fodder for his critics, Romney emphasized, "You can focus on the very poor, that's not my focus."
He brought up the subject of the poor in a CNN interview marking his big win in Florida's GOP primary Tuesday night, a major step toward becoming the party's challenger to President Barack Obama in the fall. A multi-millionaire former venture capitalist, Romney has been criticized by Democrats and his Republican rivals alike for earlier remarks seen as insensitive, such as saying "I like being able to fire people" and declaring that he knew what it was like to worry about being "pink-slipped" out of a job.
"I'm not concerned about the very poor." he said Wednesday. "We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."
Asked whether his comment about the poor might come across as odd to some, Romney reiterated.
"We will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor and there's no question, it's not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor," Romney said, adding that he's more worried about the unemployed, people living on Social Security and those struggling to send their kids to college.
"We have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor," Romney said. "But the middle-income Americans, they're the folks that are really struggling right now."