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Mitt Romney's 'poor' choice of words: Who's really struggling in America?

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Charles Dharapak/AP

(Read caption) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, celebrates his Florida primary election win at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday.

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Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, fresh off an important primary victory in Florida, found himself quickly in damage-control mode Wednesday after the multimillionaire candidate said he's "not concerned about the very poor."

Mr. Romney's full comment, made in a CNN interview, emphasized his concern for the difficulties faced by ordinary working Americans.

"I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. 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 America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling," Romney said.

Later, the former private-equity executive reiterated that "my energy is going to be devoted to helping middle-income people."

Still, the "not concerned" comment lands Romney in some hot water with many of the voters he would face if nominated by Republicans to run against President Obama this fall. Already, one of Romney's prime tasks is to persuade voters he understands them and doesn't live in a separate world of the ultrarich.

The remark also raises a question: Which groups of Americans are really "struggling" the most now?

Political analysts and economists could slice and dice the electorate in various ways to explore the answers, but here's a look based on the parameter Romney himself mentioned: income.

Last fall, a Gallup survey asked Americans to rate their own personal finances. In that poll, 47 percent of all respondents with incomes of less than $30,000 rated their own finances as "poor." That was a much larger share than for other income groups. About 16 percent of those with income between $30,000 and $75,000 rated their finances poor. And 3 percent of those with incomes above $75,000 called their financial position poor.

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