Mitt Romney’s campaign dealt with a new distraction Tuesday after an undercover video surfaced of him telling a group of fundraisers that “47 percent” of voters are “dependent on government.”
The video, posted by liberal magazine Mother Jones, was taken on May 17 at a fundraiser hosted by Marc Leder, co-CEO of the private equity firm Sun Capital Partners Inc.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney states. “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 healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Romney says his "job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Later Monday, Romney held an impromptu press conference where he stuck by his message but said it was “not elegantly stated” and spoken “off the cuff.”
He told reporters he was talking about campaign strategy, “not his vision for the country.” Romney stood by the spirit of his comments, saying they represented “the same message I give to people” in public.
Democrats quickly seized on the video, which dominated morning talk shows on Tuesday, to augment their argument that Romney is out of touch.
“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,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. “It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”
Obama’s campaign quickly sought to raise money off the incident with an email in which Messina wrote of Romney: “If we don't come through for President Obama right now, this will be the guy making big decisions that affect us and our families every single day.”
The video came on a day when Romney’s campaign already was dealing with reports about infighting. Some Romney allies said his campaign needed to refocus his efforts on bringing out the base after failing to rally independent and swing voters.
In a conference call earlier Monday with reporters, campaign aides pledged that Romney would provide more specifics on his policies and programs on the campaign stump.
“We think voters now, from what we see in data and other research, are looking for — 'OK, if we're going to make this change, how is it going to make my life better, how are things going to improve?' ” said Romney adviser Ed Gillespie on a conference call with reporters. “We know that they know he has a plan, which is a good thing, but we also know they would like to know a little bit more about the specifics, and we're going to meet the demand.”
To aid in that effort, the campaign released two new ads on Monday detailing Romney's 5-point economic plan and criticizing Obama's record. Romney also made a major push for Hispanic voters Monday, speaking at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles and granting interviews to Univision and Telemundo.
But that push could be partially undermined by another of the covert clips, where Romney candidly discusses some of the problems encountered by his campaign, including trouble attracting female and Hispanic voters.
Romney jokes of his father, who was born in Mexico, “Had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this.”
Later, Romney admits that Republicans are having a difficult time attracting Hispanic voters — and there could be severe repercussions for the party.
“We are having a much harder time with Hispanic voters, and if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African-American voting bloc has in the past, why, we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation,” Romney said.
Romney also told donors the campaign was using his wife, Ann, “sparingly ... so that people don't get tired of her.”
And he admits that the president remains popular with many voters, which makes attacking him difficult.
“But when you say, 'Are you disappointed that his policies haven't worked?' they say yes,” Romney said. “And because they voted for him, they don't want to be told that they were wrong, that he's a bad guy, that he did bad things, that he's corrupt. Those people that we have to get, they want to believe they did the right thing, but he just wasn't up to the task.”
— This story was first posted at 5:19 p.m. Monday and was last updated at 8:21 a.m. Tuesday.