LARGO, Md. -- President Obama fired back at the Republican presidential field Thursday, likening their collective criticisms about his alternative-energy policies to those who once allowed their fears of falling off the Earth prevent them from exploring new opportunities.

"If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the 'Flat Earth Society,'" the president told an adoring crowd in Prince George's County. "They would not believe that the world was round.

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