"It is my job to put forward a vision of the country that benefits the vast majority of Americans," Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview that aired Sunday. "If I can't get Republicans to move, partly because they've made a political, strategic decision that says, 'Anything Obama's for, we're against, because that's our best chance of winning an election,' I don't think the American people would see that as a failure on my part."
Obama said he’d prefer that Republicans have a different attitude: “You know, I've been joking with my staff lately that I think in my next speech, I am going to say, "I am adamantly opposed to investing in education and putting teachers in the classroom. I'm adamantly opposed to rebuilding America and putting construction workers back to work.’ And I'm thinking maybe suddenly Republicans might be for it. But, you know, keep in mind, I'm talking about Republican members of Congress. I'm not talking about Republicans around the country.”
CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft noted that rank-and-file Republicans "don't like you much better. It's only 7 percent approval rating."
"Yeah, no, I understand,' Obama replied. "But I think that they like the ideas that we put forward. I mean, the interesting thing is the majority of Republicans actually think we should have a balanced approach to deficit reduction, including tax increases for the wealthy. The majority of Republicans do think that we should make investments in roads and bridges and improving our airports and investing in basic research -- medical research.
Kroft noted that 75 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, while 54 percent say Obama doesn't share their priorities.
"Steve, here's the thing. As long as [the] unemployment rate is too high and people are feeling under the gun -- day in, day out -- because their bills are going up and their wages and incomes aren't, or they're out of a job, they're going to feel unsatisfied. I mean, there's no secret to this."
At another point in the interview, Obama was asked about the poor prospects for his re-election, based on low poll numbers.
"Well look, we've gone through an incredibly difficult time in this country. And I would be surprised if the American people felt satisfied right now. They shouldn't feel satisfied. We've got a lot more work to do in order to get this country and the economy moving in a way that benefits everybody, as opposed to just a few.
“And we didn't get into these problems overnight. We're not going to get out of them overnight. And as long as I'm President, I'm going to be held responsible, in some fashion, to fix the problem. And, you know, that is why I don't spend a lot of time worrying about polls. I spend a lot of time worrying about, are the steps that we're taking the right ones, in order to get a better result for ordinary families who are working hard?”
Obama described the election as a contest of competing visions, and his vision is "that this country has to move in a direction that builds from the bottom up."
Asked if he's given up on working with Republicans, Obama said he will seize "every opportunity that I see for us to be able to actually get something done."
But, he added, his main concern is getting the economy moving and people back to work.
"And I'll worry about the politics sometime next year," said the president who has spent much of the year traveling around the country, giving campaign speeches that plug his vision for America.