"After my election, I have more flexibility"
President Obama speaking to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea, March 26, 2012
At a nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea, on March 12, 2012, President Obama was caught on a hot mike speaking with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The Russian leader could be overheard agreeing to explain to President-elect Vladimir Putin that the American president needed "space" before he could deal with nuclear arms control issues and would have "more flexibility" after his re-election. The line became a Republican talking point throughout the campaign, and Mitt Romney referenced it in the final presidential debate, saying, "I'm certainly not going to say to him, 'I'll give you more flexibility after the election.' After the election, he'll get more backbone."
Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space.
Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you --
Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
(You can watch Obama's secret conversation with Medvedev here.)