NBC's Lauer to Obama: Can Mitt Romney 'Identify With the Middle Class?'

In his softball Sunday interview with President Obama before the Super Bowl, Today co-host Matt Lauer invited the Democratic commander in chief to speculate on Mitt Romney's ability to connect with voters: "He's a guy who's been incredibly successful in his life and career. He's made a lot of money, it's not a crime...can [he] identify with the middle class and the underclass in this country?"

While Obama refused to "comment on any particular candidate" he had no trouble hitting Lauer's easy pitch: "...people also want to see is that everybody is doing their fair share. That we're all pulling together....Whoever the Republican nominee is, I fundamentally disagree with a formula that would go back to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place."

Lauer did show some balance however, directing a similar question at Obama himself: "On Friday you held a fundraiser, you raised $900,000 in a couple of hours. I think, 25 wealthy individuals paid $36,000 apiece to spend a couple of hours with you. How do you think the guy sitting, drinking a beer and eating chips watching the game today can identify with something like that?"

Obama blamed others for the money in politics: "Now, if you ask me would I love to take some of the big money out of politics, I would. Unfortunately right now,  partly because of Supreme Court rulings and a bunch of decisions out there..."

In the questions that followed, Lauer fretted over the negative campaigning that money on both sides could buy: "We've just seen in Florida, on the Republican side, a lot of money spent. About 100% of it spent on extremely negative personal ads. If you raise a billion dollars to keep this job, can we expect the same kind of negativity coming from that money?"

In a follow up, which even Lauer admitted was "a little bit Pollyanna," he urged the President to declare a truce on negative ads with the eventual GOP nominee: "...when a Republican nominee is chosen, would you agree to meeting with that person.... and talking about how the two of you plan to conduct yourselves over the course of this campaign? I think the American people would like that. Would you agree to that?"

At one point, what started as a tough pointed question to Obama became open-ended: "I hear more and more that they're disappointed in you, that you aren't the transformational political figure they hoped you would be. How does that make you feel when you hear that?"

Having already blamed one branch of government for campaign funding, the President turned his fire on Congress and the Founding Fathers: "What's frustrated people is that I have not been able to force Congress to implement every aspect of what I said in 2008. Well, you know, it turns out that our founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes."

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