Romney Calls 47% of Voters Dependent in Leaked Video
By Michael D. Shear and Michael Barbaro, NY Times, September 17, 2012
WASHINGTON—During a private reception with wealthy donors this year, Mitt Romney described almost half of Americans as “people who pay no income tax” and are “dependent upon government.” Those voters, he said, would probably support President Obama because they believe they are “victims” who are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
In a brief and hastily called news conference Monday just after 10 p.m., Mr. Romney acknowledged having made the blunt political and cultural assessment, saying it was “not elegantly stated,” but he stood by the substance of the remarks, insisting that he had made similar observations in public without generating controversy.
The video of Mr. Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, was made in May, offering a rare glimpse of his personal views. Mr. Romney told reporters that he had been “speaking off the cuff in response to a question” at the fund-raiser, and said he wanted “to help all Americans—all Americans—have a bright, prosperous future.”
Democrats quickly condemned the remarks as insensitive, and Mr. Obama’s campaign accused Mr. Romney of having “disdainfully written off half the nation.”
The video surfaced as the campaign enters its final 50 days and as Mr. Romney sought to restart his campaign with new ads and new messaging, in response to calls in his campaign and from outside for him to be more specific about how his policies would fix the nation’s economy and help the middle class.
Now, the video has raised the possibility that Mr. Romney’s campaign will be sidetracked, with attention focused again on his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy, the release of his personal tax returns and his ability to connect with middle-class voters. With its unvarnished language, the video seems to undermine what aides have argued is an enduring attribute that would appeal to independent voters: a sense that Mr. Romney is, at base, an empathetic and caring man.
Snippets of the video of Mr. Romney were posted online Monday afternoon by Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, which said it had obtained the recording and had confirmed its authenticity.
The author of the Mother Jones article, David Corn, said on MSNBC that the video was shot on May 17 at the Boca Raton, Fla., home of Marc Leder, a financier, who held a $50,000-a-person fund-raiser for Mr. Romney that night.
In one clip, Mr. Romney describes how his campaign would not try to appeal to “47 percent of the people” who will vote for Mr. Obama “no matter what.” They are, he says, “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”
He says those people “pay no income tax,” and “so our message of low taxes doesn’t connect.” Mr. Romney adds: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The comments were much more stark than Mr. Romney’s usual remarks, though he typically talks in public about supporters of Mr. Obama’s wanting big government to take care of their problems. He often accuses Mr. Obama and his supporters of wanting to bring a European-style socialism to the United States. In the video clips, Mr. Romney says his campaign is concentrating on the “5 to 10 percent in the center” whom he described as “thoughtful” voters.
Mr. Romney, who has been under fire for releasing only two years of his tax returns, was quickly attacked by the Obama campaign. Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, said in a statement Monday evening that it was “shocking” that Mr. Romney would “go behind closed doors” to describe nearly half of the country in such terms.
Mr. Romney is not the first presidential candidate to be caught speaking candidly at a fund-raiser. Four years ago during the Democratic primary campaign, The Huffington Post published Mr. Obama’s remarks at a San Francisco fund-raiser, saying small-town Pennsylvania voters, bitter over their economic circumstances, “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” as a way to explain their frustrations.