Obama Campaign Pounces on Romney Fundraiser Video

Obama Campaign Pounces on Romney Fundraiser Video

By Erin McPike - September 18, 2012

President Obama's campaign team kicked Mitt Romney when he was down on Monday, taking advantage of newly unearthed footage of the Republican presidential nominee writing off 47 percent of the American public.

Mother Jones posted video of Romney telling donors at a Boca Raton, Fla., fundraiser in May: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. . . . These are people who pay no income tax.”

He continued, “My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Several hours after the video appeared online, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina responded: “It's shocking that a candidate for president of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives. It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”

A series of Obama campaign aides posted the story to their Twitter feeds, and it ricocheted around the Internet quickly.

In a last-minute, late-night press conference in California on Monday, where he had been campaigning earlier in the day, Romney defended his remarks, telling reporters, “This is really a discussion about the political process, about winning the election.”

Taking three questions, Romney said his comments in the video were “not elegantly stated,” but he didn’t back away from the points he had made: “Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits? Or do you believe instead in a free-enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams?”

Romney also said he wished the source of the footage would post the entirety of his remarks and not just portions of them. 

Earlier, Romney communications director Gail Gitcho had responded. Although she did not address the video directly, she intimated that Romney’s sentiments and past statements along the campaign trail suggest the opposite of what he said in the footage from the closed-door event.

"Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy,” Gitcho said. “As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work.”

A Republican strategist who worked on Romney’s failed bid for the presidency in 2008 sighed: “What this does is reinforce his image as an elitist who doesn’t care about the middle class.”

But Erick Erickson, the conservative commentator who has been critical of Romney in the past, objected. “That the media and left think the Romney statement on taxes is a gaffe says more about them than Romney.”

Republicans largely dismissed the video, suggesting that the sentiments are shared by many on the right and asserting that Romney simply didn’t communicate his viewpoint well.

What’s more, some point out that President Obama survived his own damaging moment caught on tape in the last election, when he told donors that some disheartened Americans in small towns “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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