Obama contrasts himself with Romney, calls Americans ‘good and decent’

President Barack Obama used a $40,000 per ticket gala Tuesday to praise Americans as good and decent, likely kicking off a renewed effort to portray his GOP rival as harsh and mean.

The new passage in his stump speech matches other Democrats’ efforts to exploit Gov. Mitt Romney‘s off-the-cuff videotaped declaration in May that the 47 percent of the electorate who get government payments won’t vote for the GOP.

That crude prediction has been decried by conservatives as a mangled expression of the conservative judgment that government officials tend to extend dependency, even though many recipients try to escape government aid.

Democrats are using Romney’s campaign-strategy analysis to persuade swing-voters that he doesn’t care about their well-being.

“Most people are good and they’re decent and they’re trying to do the right thing,” Obama told his $40,000-per-ticket fundraiser in New York, which was held an expensive nightclub that features a floor-to-ceiling tower of gold-plated champagne bottles.

“That encourages me, that makes me feel good,” he told his wealthy supporters, who included two famous entertainers, Jay-Z and Beyonce, who he called “Jay and Bey.”

The good-and-decent pitch followed a friendly discussion on David Letterman’s TV show, where Obama also pushed the claim that a President Mitt Romney would only want to help people who voted for him.

“If you want to be president you’ve got to work for everybody, not just for some,” said Obama, who has presided over an extended period of partisan conflict and bitterness.

“This is a big country. … People disagree a lot, but one thing I’ve never tried to do, and I think none of us can do in public office, is suggest that because someone doesn’t agree with me that they’re victims or they’re unpatriotic,” Obama claimed.

That’s a sharply different pitch from last year, when Obama routinely declared that the GOP was putting “party before country.”

His new “good and decent” pitch also contrasts with his closed-door statements to donors in May 2008.

Poor white Democrats “feel so betrayed by government … so it is not surprising then that they get bitter and they cling to guns or religion or antipathy towards people who are not like them as a way to explain their frustrations,” he told a roomful of wealthy donors as he competed against Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

But the new “good and decent” claim is likely to become a staple in his stump-speech as he tries to win votes amid a stalled economy, spreading unemployment, record deficits, declining incomes and rising prices.

“People ask me, how do you handle all the criticism and the media and the scrutiny and the pressure and this and that and the other,” Obama told the New York donors.

“I tell them there are two things that allow me to not just survive this but to thrive and enjoy it,” he insisted.

“The first is the American people. Because when you travel around the country, it turns out that they’re so much better than the kind of politics we see in Washington,” he said.