(NEW YORK) — During a live interview Friday inside the White House, President Obama told MTV viewers that when it comes to same-sex marriage and climate change, it would be up to future generations of Americans to implement meaningful reforms.
When asked if he would use his second term as a platform to overturn the federal ban on gay marriage, the president demurred, saying he viewed it as an issue for the states to decide.
“For us to try to legislate federally into this area is probably the wrong way to go,” Obama told MTV presenter Sway Calloway, who asked questions submitted by youth voters.
On the issue of climate change, the president said he was “surprised” it didn’t come up during the debates and conceded, “We’re not moving as fast as we need to.”
“This is an issue that future generations, MTV Viewers, are going to have to deal with even more than the older generation is. So this is a critical issue and there’s huge contrast in this campaign between myself and Governor Romney,” Obama said, turning his attention to the Republican challenger.
“[Romney] says he believes in climate change, but he says he’s not sure that manmade causes are the reason…. I believe scientists who say we’re putting too much carbon emissions into the atmosphere and it’s heating the planet and it’s going to have a severe effect.”
Obama also took a page from his campaign playbook to urge viewers to get to the polls. “In 2000, in Gore vs. Bush, 537 votes changed the direction of history in a profound way. And that could happen here,” the president said, reprising a warning first delivered in an ad released Thursday morning.
With polls showing tight races in battleground states and Mitt Romney taking a narrow lead in the latest national ABC News/Washington Post tracking surveys, Obama spent most of Friday doing interviews with local news outlets – seven on TV, two on the radio, and the MTV spot.
As part of his effort to drum up enthusiasm with his young supporters, Obama also sat down for an exclusive question-and-answer session with Rolling Stone magazine. In the first excerpts, which appeared online Thursday, the president offered a colorful assessment of his opponent’s relationship with the truth.
“You know, kids have good instincts,” Obama said, joking that he was “a killer” with the “six to 12″ demographic. “They look at [Romney] and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullsh**ter, I can tell.'”
Asked to explain or expand on the remark, Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer told reporters, “Trust is a very important part of the election… and Governor Romney’s answers in the debates on domestic issues and foreign policy raise real questions about that.”
He also asked that the media not be “distracted” by the word choice.
“President Obama is rattled and on the defensive,” top Romney aide Kevin Madden responded. “He’s running on empty and has nothing left but attacks and insults. It’s unfortunate he has to close the final days of the campaign this way.”
Asked by Inside Edition about his comment, Obama sought to soften the tone, saying, “[Romney’s] got a wonderful family. He’s a man of deep conviction… Obviously I have great respect for what Governor Romney has done with his life.”
The MTV interview was designed for the president to have an opportunity to stoke his base of younger voters. Obama won the 18-29 demographic by more than 30 points in 2008 and figures to do well there again, but turnout estimates are down in the latest polls.
The president’s media blitz follows a 48-hour campaign swing through eight key states that left his voice sounding slightly hoarse by late Thursday.
With just 11 days to go until polls open across the nation, both campaigns are insisting that the numbers are on their side. Most of the focus has been on Ohio, where early voting is underway, and Florida, where absentee ballots have been available since late September.
“Floridians are fired up to reelect the president,” Obama’s Tampa-based spokesman Eric Jotkoff told ABC News Thursday. “We’ve already seen a record number cast ballots by mail.”
Sarah Pompei, Romney’s deputy communications director, insists the Sunshine State is breaking for the Republican. “Florida is like an aircraft carrier,” Pompei said. “It’s tough to get turning but once you start, it’s hard to stop.”
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