Obama: ‘I wasn’t born with a silver spoon’

Posted at 8:35 PM, Apr 18, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-18 22:18:16-04

By Adam Aigner-Treworgy and Gregory Wallace

Elyria, Ohio (CNN) — An aide to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign downplayed any potential reference to rival Mitt Romney Wednesday after the president told a crowd in Ohio he “wasn’t born with a silver spoon” in his mouth.

The aide said Obama has used that line in the past, though its use Wednesday seemed to take on new meaning now that the general election in underway. The remark could be construed as veiled criticism of the likely GOP nominee’s wealth and background.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” Obama said in his remarks on the campus of an Ohio community college. “Michelle wasn’t. But somebody gave us a chance — just like these folks up here are looking for a chance.”

Obama never mentioned his likely Republican competitor by name.

On the presidential campaign trail, Mitt Romney has handled the issue of his wealth with some awkwardness. Romney has built a fortune estimated to be between $85 and $264 million in a twenty-plus year career in the financial sector, and his father his own success becoming the president of American Motors and then the governor of Michigan.

Obama made his case for the so-called Buffett Rule, a proposal that millionaires and billionaires would pay at least 30% of their income in taxes. As expected, the proposal failed a Senate vote on Monday.

“I’m saying you make $1 million a year. And we said you should at least pay the same percentage in income tax as middle class families do — as a teacher or a bus driver,” he said.

Obama and Republicans, including Romney, are drawing their battle lines in the 2012 campaign, with the Buffett Rule as one front and the federal government budget as a second. The president said GOP proposals would result in dramatic cuts to federal programs.

“Job training programs like this one would be forced to cut back. Thousands of Americans would lose out on critical employment and training services. That’s the truth,” he said.

The impact of GOP-favored cuts is not completely known, and the president alleges their plans have been strategically opaque.

“When you ask the Republicans, well, what do you say about that, they say, well, now, ‘Obama is making this up because we didn’t specify which cuts we would make,’ ” he continued. “Well, they — the reason they didn’t specify it is because they know folks wouldn’t like it.”

Romney, meanwhile, campaigned Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, near where Obama will speak at the Democratic National Convention this summer. He billed his remarks as pre-buttal to the Democratic candidate’s eventual convention speech and criticized his handling of the economy.

“He’s over his head and he’s swimming in the wrong direction,” Romney said.

– CNN Political Producer Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.

– CNN Political Producer Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.