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Obama on GOP challengers: 'They're not commander in chief'


President Barack Obama used his bully pulpit on Tuesday to send a tough rejoinder to those Republicans who question his national security strategy: "They're not commander in chief."

The president took several opportunities to snipe at his would-be GOP challengers in a press conference scheduled the same day as Super Tuesday, a day when a number of delegates are at stake and could move the battle for the nomination toward a conclusion.

Obama most aggressively rebuffed criticism in recent days by the Republican hopefuls of his handling of the situations in Iran and Syria. Three of the GOP candidates made that criticism during speeches Tuesday to AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel advocacy group.

"Now, what's said on the campaign trail -- you know, those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities. They're not commander in chief," Obama said.

Super Tuesday to set the tone for remainder of GOP race

"And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I'm reminded of the costs involved in war; I'm reminded of the decision that I have to make ... This is not a game. And there's nothing casual about it," he added.

It was a moment that seemed intended to remind voters of the gravity of the presidency, especially in contrast with some of the more fickle elements of the campaign trail.

"Typically, it's not the folks who are popping off who pay the price," Obama said of politically motivated saber-rattling, especially toward Iran. "It's these incredible men and women in uniform and their families who pay the price."

That hasn't stopped Republicans from piling on Obama, though.

"Hope is not a foreign policy. The only thing respected by thugs and tyrants is our resolve, backed by our power and our readiness to use it," Romney told attendees of AIPAC.

Asked how he would respond to the former Massachusetts governor's criticism of his foreign policy criticism, Obama had a short reply.

"Good luck tonight!" he said with a grin. "Really!"

With a chuckle, President Barack Obama wishes GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney "good luck," impying he's ready for Romney's challenge.

There were other notable remarks by Obama during Tuesday's news conference, including those about women voters and Latinos -- two crucial voting blocs in November.

The president reaffirmed his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, but bemoaned increased Republican opposition to any plan that would give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship -- a shift from the policy of President George W. Bush, Obama noted.

"We didn't get it done," Obama said of his 2008 promise of immigration reform, a failure that has disappointed a number of Latinos. "And the reason we haven't gotten it done is because what used to be a bipartisan agreement that we should fix this ended up becoming a partisan issue."

But he suggested that a shift in Republican thinking -- or, at least, a shift in their representation in Congress -- would be needed to accomplish reforms.

"Depending on how Congress turns out, we'll see how many Republican votes we need to get it done," he said.

The president ducked a question about whether he agrees with a statement made previously by Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, that Republicans are waging a war on women.

"Women are going to make up their own mind in this election about who is advancing the issues that they care most deeply about," Obama said. "And I believe that Democrats have a better story to tell to women about how we're going to solidify the middle class and grow this economy, make sure everybody got -- has a fair shot, everybody's doing their fair share, and we got a fair set of rules of the road that everybody has to follow."