SALT LAKE CITY — President Barack Obama declared Tuesday night the occupant of the Oval Office must "work for everyone, not just for some," jabbing back at Mitt Romney's jarring statement that as a candidate, he doesn't worry about the 47 percent of the country that pays no income taxes.

Romney neither disavowed nor apologized for his remarks, which included an observation that nearly half of the country believe they are victims and entitled to a range of government support. Instead, Romney cast his comment as evidence of a fundamental difference with Obama over the economy, adding the federal government should not "take from some to give to the others."

As the rivals sparred with seven weeks remaining in a close race for the White House, two GOP Senate candidates publicly disavowed Romney's remarks, caught on videotape at a fundraiser. Republican officials openly debated the impact that a series of controversies would have on the party's prospects of winning the presidency.

Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, said the Republican presidential nominee was "obviously inarticulate" in trying to make his point. The Wisconsin congressman told KRNV-TV in Reno, Nev., "The point we're trying to make here is, under the Obama economy, government dependency is up and economic stagnation is up."

Top Republicans in Congress declined through aides to offer their reaction to Romney's remarks – just as they generally refrained from commenting a week ago when he issued a statement that inaccurately accused the Obama administration of giving comfort to demonstrators after they breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

While the Romney campaign has been promoting its fundraising prowess for months, it acknowledged that it had borrowed $20 million before the GOP national convention to boost its cash flow as it waited to begin tapping its general election funds. Under law, that money wouldn't be available until Romney was officially nominated.

The Romney campaign confirmed Tuesday night that it took out the loan in August, using its general election accounts as collateral. The National Review Online first reported the loan.

The most recent controversy in a campaign filled with them was ignited by the emergence of a videotape, made last May, in which Romney told donors at a fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans pay no income taxes. They "believe the government has a responsibility to care for them ... believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement."

He said, "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

In a next-day interview on Fox, the network of choice for conservatives, Romney said he didn't intend to write off any part of a deeply divided electorate, including seniors who are among those who often pay no taxes. Instead, he repeatedly sought to reframe his remarks as a philosophical difference of opinion between himself and Obama.

"I'm not going to get" votes from Americans who believe government's job is to redistribute wealth,' he said, adding that was something Obama believes in.

He also said he wants to be president so he can help hard-pressed Americans find work and earn enough so they become income taxpayers.

Romney didn't say so, but the U.S. income tax is designed to be progressive, so those who earn the most theoretically pay the most. Through programs as diverse as Social Security, Medicare, health care and food stamps, the government collects tax revenue and pays it out in the form of benefits for those who qualify.

Obama responded during an appearance on the David Letterman show.

"One thing I've learned as president is that you represent the entire country," he said. As for Romney's statement about the 47 percent, he said, "There are not a lot of people out there who think they are victims" or simply entitled.

At the same time, his campaign released a new ad saying that if Romney wins the White House, he might seek the elimination of a series of tax breaks used by millions of middle class Americans. "Mitt Romney, he's so focused on big business and tax cuts for the wealthy, it seems like his answers to middle class America are just tough luck," says a woman in the commercial.

For his part, Romney referred to videotaped comments Obama made in 1998 as evidence he favored government redistribution of wealth. As an Illinois state senator at the time, Obama said he believes in it "at least to a certain level to make sure everybody's got a shot."

Privately, some Republicans were harshly critical of Romney's most recent comments and his overall campaign to date, saying he had frittered away opportunities. They also noted that with early voting already under way in some states, the time to recover was smaller than might appear.

Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Connecticut, was open with her criticism. "I disagree with Governor Romney's insinuation that 47% of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care," she said in a statement posted to her website.

Sen. Scott Brown, in a tough race for re-election in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, said of Romney's comments: "That's not the way I view the world."

Still, with high-profile presidential debates and seven weeks of campaigning yet ahead, others said those concerns were overstated.

"I don't expect the negative headlines of this week will be what we're talking about a week from now," said Fergus Cullen, the former Republican state chairman in New Hampshire and a close ally of Romney. Like other Republicans, he said, "It's incumbent on the Romney campaign to make it (the election) about Obama's handling of the economy."

In recent days, Republicans have grumbled that Romney needed to sharpen his appeal to struggling middle class Americans by stating more clearly what he would do as president to help them. That effort began overnight with a new ad designed to appeal to female voters.

The new controversy blazed as opinion polls suggested that a narrow lead Obama gained nationally and in some key battleground states in the wake of the Democratic National Convention might be ebbing.

The sluggish economy and lingering high unemployment are by far the overriding issues of the election, and Romney's case for the presidency is based on his claim that his success as a businessman has left him the skills needed to create jobs in a nation where unemployment is 8.1 percent.

Obama and the Democrats have tried to counter by depicting the president's challenger as a multimillionaire who has some of his wealth invested in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere overseas, and is out of touch with the needs of middle class Americans.

In his original reaction to the video, posted by the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones, Romney told reporters Monday night that his fundraising remarks were "not elegantly stated." But he offered no apologies and did not answer directly when asked if he felt he had offended anyone.

He also called for the release of the entire video, rather than selected clips, and Mother Jones did so Tuesday afternoon.

By then, the magazine had already posted another excerpt in which Romney offered an unvarnished assessment of the chances for peace in the Middle East. "The Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace," and "the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish," he said.

"You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem," he said, "and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it."

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians were ready for peace based on the 1967 borders, a two-state solution and stopping settlement activities.

"We think that these statements are part of the election campaign, but unfortunately, it will not help the peace process, but rather, will strengthen the voices of extremism and the voices of those who refuse to reach a two-state solution," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said in a statement.

On another topic, he also noted that his father was born in Mexico and suggested humorously that "I'd have a better shot at winning this" if George Romney had been born to Mexican parents. "But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. ... And I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."

___

Kuhnhenn reported from Washington. Associated Press reporters Holly Ramer in Dover, N.H., Matthew Daly in New York, Sandra Chereb in Carson City, Nev., and David Espo, Charles Babington, Julie Pace, Philip Elliott and Kasie Hunt in Washington contributed to this report.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • King Tut's Penis

    Seriously, we know more about a 3,300-year-old teen pharaoh mummy penis than we do about what lies carefully preserved in Romney's tax returns before 2010. That's either because we <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/06/on-the-trail-of-tutankhamens-penis.html" target="_hplink">know a fair amount about King Tut's mummified member</a> -- like the fact that it broke off and went missing for a while -- or because we know absolutely nothing about the pre-2010 presidential candidate's tax returns.

  • Coca-Cola's Secret Formula

    Despite the presence of a number of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola_formula#Purported_secret_recipes" target="_hplink">purported recipes</a> for Coca-Cola, the company has long maintained that there is only a single copy of the actual formula, kept stashed away in a safe place. Last year, however, Coke <a href="http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/dynamic/press_center/2011/12/coca-cola-secret-formula-moves-to-the-world-of-coca-cola.html" target="_hplink">moved its secret formula</a> to a vault housed at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. Sure, it was only a token step toward disclosure -- and probably more about making money -- but at least it was something. Your move, Mr. Romney.

  • The Bermuda Triangle

    This region may be great for <a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/08/investigating-mitt-romney-offshore-accounts" target="_hplink">stashing tons of Romney's money</a>, but it isn't some sort of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bermuda_Triangle" target="_hplink">isosceles zone</a> of supernatural trickery. Detailed reports of notorious shipwrecks in this area have led most experts to conclude they were caused by bad weather, rogue waves or simply human error.

  • How To Speak Prairie Dog

    <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1kXCh496U0" target="_hplink">Those noises</a> might sound like just a bunch of annoying, high-pitched chirps, but <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8493000/8493089.stm" target="_hplink">Professor Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University has more discerning ears than you</a> -- and probably a cooler name, too. Slobodchikoff says the language of the prairie dog is the most complex of any animal decoded so far. The varmints (which Romney <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-iRlBH3G6A" target="_hplink">may or may not enjoy hunting</a>) even have different calls for different predators. According to Slobodchikoff's studies, prairie dogs can alter their pitch and frequency to specify the size and distance of whatever is approaching.

  • Donald Trump's Mystery Hair

    Trump and Romney might have a lot of things in common -- their mutual <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/04/since-president-obama-released-his-birth-certificate-will-donald-trump-release-his-tax-returns/" target="_hplink">fear of releasing tax returns</a> comes to mind. But when it comes to coiffure, they are worlds apart. There have long been questions about Trump's hair. Mainly, "What is that thing on Donald Trump's head?" Well, according to him, it's just hair, carefully manicured and positioned every morning so as to make sure that no mortal can ever catch a glimpse of his forehead. From what we know, there's actually only been <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezz1BkuE1Qg" target="_hplink">one known sighting</a> of that part of his body. Here's what Trump <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/donald-trump-lets-his-hair-down-20110511" target="_hplink">told <em>Rolling Stone</em></a> about his hair: <blockquote>"OK, what I do is, wash it with Head and Shoulders. I don't dry it, though. I let it dry by itself. It takes about an hour. Then I read papers and things. This morning I read in the <em>New York Post</em> ... I also watch TV. I love Fox, I like Morning Joe, I like that the Today show did a beautiful piece on me yesterday -- I mean, relatively speaking. OK, so I've done all that. I then comb my hair. Yes, I do use a comb ... Do I comb it forward? No, I don't comb it forward ... I actually don't have a bad hairline. When you think about it, it's not bad. I mean, I get a lot of credit for comb-overs. But it's not really a comb-over. It's sort of a little bit forward and back. I've combed it the same way for years. Same thing, every time."</blockquote>

  • Area 51

    Like Mitt Romney's tax returns, this Nevada military base is shrouded in a thick veil of secrecy. While there is undoubtedly a lot of stuff going on in there -- most of it likely far more interesting than Romney's tax history -- Americans aren't completely in the dark about the base. Since acknowledging the existence of the Air Force base, the government has predictably been hush-hush about projects at the facility. Historians have, however, have <a href="http://books.google.com/books/about/Shadow_Flights.html?id=cmMBAAAACAAJhttp://books.google.com/books/about/Shadow_Flights.html?id=cmMBAAAACAAJ" target="_hplink">written books</a> about Area 51's less juicy past. No aliens or UFOs, just some <a href="http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-mag-april052009-backstory,0,5104077.story" target="_hplink">advanced flight technology</a> and military procedures that have gone awry at times. But that doesn't rule out the possibility that there's a lot more going on there now. Alien spacecraft? Energy weapons? A time travel project? Your imagination's the limit. In a way, the government's approach to releasing information about Area 51 seems a lot like Romney's strategy for releasing his tax returns. Release a few boring details -- like your 2010 and 2011 forms -- only to keep everything else, presumably the most interesting stuff -- under wraps. When people ask what's going on back there, just tell them to pipe down and mind their own business. As with Area 51, Romney's method is proving an awful way to quiet speculation.

  • What Space Smells Like

    Do Mitt Romney's tax returns smell like "seared steak, hot metal and welding fumes"? If they did, they'd smell just like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/22/what-does-space-smell-like_n_1691642.html" target="_hplink">space</a>, according to astronaut spacewalk veterans.

  • The God Particle

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/higgs-boson-explained-god-particle_n_1645732.html" target="_hplink">The God particle</a>. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson" target="_hplink">The Higgs boson</a>. You say "potato," I say "potah ... Whaaa, come again?" To make a very long and nerdy story over-simplistically short, a bunch of really smart theoretical physicists have used a multi-billion dollar piece of equipment to prove the existence of the particle that gives mass to other elementary particles. They did this by blasting things at each other at near-light speed around a 17-mile tube track of death (or life?) located in a subterranean bunker in Europe. Is it possible that a mini hadron collider is listed as an expense on Romney's tax returns?

  • Why Sloths Are Bad At Balance And Stuff

    If the captains of the animal kingdom were picking species to partake in what Mitt Romney might call "sport," three-toed sloths might get picked dead-last -- unless that sport somehow hinged entirely upon being incredibly cute. Not only are these sloths lethargic, but they're clumsy, which is actually not a problem because they pretty much only come down from trees to poop. Because their slow-motion lifestyles afford them the luxury of being able to survive without a good sense of balance, the semi-circular ear canals that control their equilibrium <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/01/sloth-balance-bradypus-variegatus_n_1728811.html" target="_hplink">have never been honed by the evolutionary process</a>.

  • What Dinosaur Sex Looked Like

    So <em>that's</em> what it looked like, at least according to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/dinosaur-sex_n_1659391.html" target="_hplink">Beverly Halstead, an Englishman </a>known for his candid talk about dinosaur mating before his death in 1991. Figuring out the "cloacal kiss" based on fossils from the Cretaceous Period must have been difficult. But it was still easier than guessing what Romney's tax returns might look like.

  • How To Survive The Zombie Apocalypse

    While <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/cdc-denies-zombies-existence_n_1562141.html" target="_hplink">they tell us</a> zombies aren't real ... <em>yet</em> ... that doesn't mean people aren't preparing like there's a brain-starved horde headed straight for their front door. Countless books, movies, TV shows, comics and websites provide entertainment and ideas about the best way to make it through Apocalypse Z without becoming a zombie. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm" target="_hplink">hopped on board as a joke</a>, but the government's <a href="http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/05/preparedness-101-zombie-apocalypse/" target="_hplink">preparedness guide</a> appears to be taking it pretty seriously. Too bad the CDC is only serving up a barebones list of recommendations. Wait, why do we care about a presidential wannabe's tax returns again? I'm going to draw up a contingency plan.

  • What Ryan Lochte's Mom Knows About His Sex Life

    Ike Lochte seems to know too much about her swimmer son's "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/ike-lochte-ryans-mom-talks-one-night-stands-single-girlfriend-today-show_n_1733433.html" target="_hplink">one-night stands</a>." Way too much. Like "the opposite of how much we know about Romney's tax returns" too much.

  • Mitt Romney's Car Elevator

    Romney reportedly shelled out $55,000 to install a top-of-the-line "Phantom Park" car elevator in his California beachfront mansion, which will allow him to "<a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/05/mitt-romney-ordered-55000-phantom-park-car-elevator-designer-says/" target="_hplink">maintain a hands-on relationship</a> with his machines," according to the maker. Sounds kinky. Kinky enough to make me want to read more tax returns. Oh Romney -- you <em>tease</em>.

  • President Obama's Annoying Stoner Habit

    Barack Obama was a cheeky kid who refused to observe proper stoner decorum, but author David Maraniss writes in Obama's biography that he pretty much got away with it. Here's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/25/obama-pot-smoking-details_n_1545904.html" target="_hplink">a passage that describes</a> the future president's behavior while a member of the "Choom Gang" at his Hawaii high school. <blockquote>"When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted 'Intercepted!' and took an extra hit."</blockquote> We also know a little bit about Romney's adolescence. Primarily that he was kind of <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mitt-romneys-prep-school-classmates-recall-pranks-but-also-troubling-incidents/2012/05/10/gIQA3WOKFU_story.html" target="_hplink">a jerk</a>. More tax returns might be able to prove to the nation that he's changed a lot since then, though it's hard to think that he isn't scared they'd actually do the opposite.

  • Magnets

    <a href="http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/fcking-magnets-how-do-they-work" target="_hplink">Sorry juggalos</a>, we're pretty sure the scientists <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetism" target="_hplink">are right</a> about this one. It's all about the magnetic fields.

  • Easter Island's Moai

    These monoliths are frequently touted as some of earth's greatest mysteries. That's because people are lazy. Researchers actually know a lot about these gargantuan rock statues. National Geographic did a <a href="http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/national-geographic-channel/full-episodes/explorer/ngc-easter-island-underworld/" target="_hplink">lengthy series</a> on the studies of ancient Easter Island culture, and recently announced that it may have explained one of the biggest remaining unknowns: How the moai were transported. According to a <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/06/120622-easter-island-statues-moved-hunt-lipo-science-rocked/" target="_hplink">new theory</a>, they were carved so they could be rocked back and forth, or "walked," to their destination. It would have required a lot of man power, but no trees, which the island lacked for a number of years. At least that's what the archaeology suggests. The visual comparison to the left, however, makes a compelling argument that Romney could have more direct knowledge about the mighty moai.

  • How Alicia Silverstone Feeds Her Baby

    She "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/29/alicia-silverstone-premastication-pre-chew-food_n_1389544.html" target="_hplink">premasticates</a>." That means she chews her food and spits it into the mouth of her son, who's named "Bear Blu," for some reason. Just like a bird. Thirty years of Romney's tax returns couldn't make you un-know that.

  • Amelia Earhart's Final Resting Place

    The answer to this one may be as boring as Mitt Romney wants you to believe his tax returns are. While it's exciting to concoct theories about Earhart being captured, executed, or actually <a href="http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Books/BookReviews/earhartsurvive.html" target="_hplink">surviving to assume another identity</a> and live out her life in the great state of New Jersey, the far more likely scenario is that she perished on a remote tropical island in the southwest Pacific. Discovery <a href="http://news.discovery.com/history/amelia-earhart-resting-place.html" target="_hplink">reports</a> that researchers believe evidence found on the island of Nikumaroro suggests Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, died there after an emergency landing. In 1940, a British Colonial Service found skeletal remains on the island consistent with a woman of European descent. Near those bones lay a woman's shoe, an empty bottle and a sextant box for a piece of equipment similar to the one Noonan had used. According to Discovery, they "likely eventually succumbed to any number of causes, including injury and infection, food poisoning from toxic fish, or simply dehydration," at which point their bones may have been picked clean and carried off by enormous coconut crabs.

  • John Boehner's Tan

    If you believe House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), his tan is natural, thanks entirely to genetics, <a href="http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/09/08/john-boehner-defends-his-famous-tan/" target="_hplink">lawn-mowing</a>, mountain biking and a heavy dose of golf. "I have never been in a tanning bed or used a tanning product," he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/23/john-boehner-tanning-bed_n_736897.html" target="_hplink">said in a 2010 interview</a>. In the absence of any other evidence, we'll have to take his word for it. In this case, it doesn't bother me in the slightest.