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Barack Obama Predicts ‘Messy’ but ‘Grand’ Deficit Deal if Re-Elected

The Des Moines Register today released a previously off-the-record interview with President Barack Obama in which he gave his frankest answers to date on his second-term agenda, including breakthroughs on a “grand bargain” on the deficit and on immigration reform next year.

The White House relented to a suggestion by the Register in a blog post Tuesday that the interview become on the record.

Obama told the Register that if he is re-elected, he expects a deal in the coming months on a “grand bargain” that would cut health care costs while raising taxes on the wealthy.

“It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs,” he said.

On immigration, Obama predicted the logjam would finally break because it is in the Republican Party’s own long-term interests to cut a deal.

“And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt,” Obama said. “Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done.”

Obama said that in addition to implementing the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and the health care law, he would work with Republicans on reforming the corporate tax code, reform regulations and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

Obama also made pitches on other pieces of his campaign agenda, including boosting science and technology education, community colleges and renewable energy.

And he pitched himself as someone who has kept his promises.

He warned against a Mitt Romney presidency, saying a Romney administration could end up denying millions of Americans health care. And he raised the specter that the middle class could lose tax breaks or other programs it relies on, that Medicare would be transformed into a voucher plan or that young undocumented immigrants brought here as children would again face the risk of deportation.

“If somebody believes that the government has been the problem and will remain the problem, and if we just strip down government to defense spending and Social Security and some watered-down version of Medicare and Medicaid, and we shouldn’t be doing anything else, then obviously Mitt Romney is the candidate,” Obama said.

He also said he has done what he said he would do.

“I said that I’d cut taxes for middle-class families — I did. I said that we would make sure to make college more affordable — we have. I said I would clean up the financial system and pass the toughest Wall Street reforms since the 1930s, and we have. I said that I would make sure that people don’t go broke in this country because they get sick — we did that,” he said.

And he highlighted foreign affairs as well.

“I said I’d end the war in Iraq — I have. I said we’d got after al-Qaida and [Osama] bin Laden — we have. I said we’d begin a process where we could initially blunt the momentum of the Taliban and then a process in which we’d begin transitioning out — we’re in the process of doing that.”

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