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Did Mitt Romney Really Say He's 'Not Concerned About the Very Poor'?

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"Can you explain that?"

On what was supposed to be a victory lap coming off his decisive Florida win, Mitt Romney made headlines Wednesday morning with a comment that he's "not concerned about the very poor."

“I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney said on CNN. “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 the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

CNN host Soledad O'Brien sounded surprised at his remark and asked him to clarify.

"I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say that sounds odd," O'Brien said. "Can you explain that?"

"Well you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I'm not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it I will repair them," Romney said. "The challenge right now — 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."

"You choose where to focus," he added. "You can focus on the rich — that's not my focus — you can focus on the very poor — that's not my focus. My focus is on middle income Americans."

He continued, "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.”

As The Hill noted, this is not the first time Romney has drawn a contrast between helping the middle class and the poor, and he has previously referred to the "safety net" in place for those struggling the most. Nevertheless, his comments are sure to become a sound bite for his opponents, dovetailing with the narrative painting him as a heartless executive.

Watch Romney's comments below, via CNN:

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