Mitt Romney, the US Republican presidential candidate, has said his secretly-filmed remarks dismissing 47 per cent of Americans as government dependants were "completely wrong".
Romney, widely perceived to have won the first round of presidential debates with Barack Obama in Denver, Colorado, addressed the controversy in an interview on Fox News on Friday.
"Clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question and answer sessions, now and then you are going to say something [that] doesn't out come right," he said.
"In this case, I said something that's just completely wrong. I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about the 100 per cent."
Romney's strong showing in the debate appeared to have put his campaign back on track after those remarks derailed it, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.
He is now viewed positively by 51 per cent of voters, the first time he has enjoyed a net positive in the presidential race, according to the poll released on Thursday.
Obama's favourability rating remained unchanged at 56 per cent.
Romney made the controversial comments in a video released last month by the liberal Mother Jones website.
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It showed Romney, in a closed-door meeting with wealthy donors, saying that 47 per cent of Americans paid no income taxes, viewed themselves as victims and would vote for Obama in order to keep getting government handouts.
The remarks were widely criticised - even by Romney's fellow conservatives - and seemed to confirm the image the Obama campaign has sought to paint of an aspiring plutocrat who does not care about ordinary Americans.
In a hastily called press conference after the video came out Romney admitted the remarks were "not elegantly stated" but insisted he was merely discussing campaign strategy and not dismissing half the country.
Nationwide and battleground state polls shifted in Obama's favour in the days after the video came out, leading many pundits to speculate that it had hampered Romney's years-long quest for the White House.
Meanwhile, Obama has gone on the offensive as he attempts to regain lost ground after the debate.
Obama demanded "truth" from the "real Mitt Romney" on Thursday at a campaign rally in Denver as his aides promised a "hard look" at strategy after his listless performance..
The candidates went head to head in a 90-minute sparring over jobs, taxes and health care.
"I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney," Obama said, accusing Romney of ditching unpopular positions on tax and education, adding: "If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth".
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At the Denver rally, Obama was enthusiastic as he cheered up 12,000 supporters.
"It couldn't have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year, promising five trillion dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy," Obama said.
"So Governor Romney may dance around his positions. But if you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth.
"The fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that. The real Mitt Romney said we don't need any more teachers in our schools.
"The fellow on stage last night - he loves teachers, can't get enough of them."
Romney has enjoyed the praise for his performance as he addressed a fund-raising event, saying Americans had seen two contrasting visions for the future on stage in Denver.
He made a surprise appearance on Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Colorado, thrilling hundreds of attendees as he stepped on stage to join his sons who were scheduled guests.
"I know this is going to be a close-fought battle," he said.
"We need to win Colorado. You know what, if we do, we are going to win back the White House."
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Obama seized on Romney's comment that he did not know anything about a break in the tax code for companies that outsource jobs overseas, adding that if it was true he needed a new accountant.
"He seems to be doing just fine with his current accountant," Obama said, in a jibe at the multi-millionaire former venture capitalist.
Obama also mocked Romney over his plan to to cut government subsidies for the PBS television channel that produces the fsmous early learning show Sesame Street.
Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Denver, said: "Historically, presidential debates do not determine outcomes of elections, but in close races they do matter."
Obama's campaign team says he will make "adjustments" in the second presidential debate scheduled for October 16.
David Axelrod, Obama campaign strategist, said that the president would need to determine by the next debate how to counter what the campaign considered Romney's evasion on a series of issues.
He said Obama was "eager" for the next debate, adding that they would evaluate his performance and "make adjustments".
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies