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Democrats Wield "The 47 Percent" as New Weapon

Democrats Wield "The 47 Percent" as New Weapon

By Alexis Simendinger - September 19, 2012


"The 47 percent" became a political catchphrase Tuesday as Democrats reacted with private glee and public head-shaking to Mitt Romney's secretly videotaped comment that Americans who don't pay income taxes believe they're "entitled" to government help.

The existence of a “secret tape” drove Romney’s name to the top of Google’s search list, ahead of Jennifer Aniston, which was surely an Internet breakthrough for the GOP nominee, but probably not the sort he craved.

At a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Florida in May, Romney was captured on camera predicting he would not win the support of lower-income voters, who “believe they are victims” and will not “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Mother Jones posted the surreptitiously recorded video Monday, and edited excerpts immediately drove chatter on television, online and at the water cooler through Tuesday.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney told donors four months ago. “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. My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Democrats wasted no time arguing that Romney -- behind closed doors where reporters on his campaign have been barred -- had revealed his true colors stumping as President Gazillionaire, rather than as a warrior for senior citizens, college students, the war wounded, unemployed and impoverished who look to the government for help.

At a media event Tuesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said he believed the Romney video would have a “pretty strong effect” on the race because it powerfully reinforced perceptions of the GOP nominee as a man who does not understand how most working Americans live.

“He’s writing off 47 percent of the American population, [saying] that we’re all takers,” Trumka said. He called Romney’s comments “sad and insulting.”

Romney said Monday that his observations may not have been “elegantly stated” last May, but he did not retreat from them. Tuesday afternoon, he appeared on Fox News with Neil Cavuto to argue that Obama embraces big government and that in 1998 he said he favored the idea of redistributing wealth. Romney said as president he would work to help create jobs that would offer American workers opportunities to succeed on their own.

Speaking from Salt Lake City, Romney said the “right course for America is one where government steps in to help those who are in need -- we’re a compassionate people -- but then we let people build their own lives. . . . We believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution.”

“I think people would like to be paying taxes,” Romney added, because it would signal they had good jobs and “the privilege” of higher incomes that require tax payments.

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Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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