By Mike Lillis - 09/19/12 04:31 PM EDT
Mitt Romney's divisive comments about almost half of the country being "victims" who are "dependent on government" will only help Democrats who are swimming upstream to take back the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted Wednesday.
Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, said Romney's remarks could alienate on-the-fence voters in battleground districts, fueling Democrats' push to snatch the 25 seats they need to win back the lower chamber in November.
"The middle class in America is getting a clearer and clearer picture that the Democratic Party is on their side and the Republican Party is not. ... As a result, it's going to be helpful to our congressional races, to our Senate races and clearly to the presidential race."
In a secretly recorded video that's churned headlines all week, Romney in May told wealthy donors that "there are 47 percent of the people who will vote with [President Obama] no matter what."
"There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it," Romney says in the video, which was recorded at a private Florida fundraiser and released Monday by the liberal magazine Mother Jones.
"So my job is not to worry about those people," he added. "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have said the remarks lacked elegance, but they've hardly backed down from the underlying message that the government has grown too large and too many people rely on it for basic needs.
"My course for the American economy will encourage private investment and personal freedom," Romney wrote Wednesday in a USA Today op-ed. "Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty."
Hoyer on Wednesday quoted at length from one such Republican, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, who said Romney's "47 percent" comments suggest the GOP presidential hopeful "really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits" and "knows nothing about ambition and motivation."
"Who are these freeloaders?" Hoyer read from Brooks's Sept. 17 column. "Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?"
Hoyer on Wednesday said Romney's remarks to donors were no gaffe — "It reflects what he believes," Hoyer said — but he also conceded that all politicians are more free with their tongues when they think the cameras aren't rolling.
"We're more careful in public than we are in private," he said.