Presidential races

Romney seeks to make people forget ‘47 percent’ comment

Greg Nash

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GOP donors and party strategists are skeptical Mitt Romney can repair an image badly damaged by his 2012 comment that 47 percent of voters “are dependent upon government” and will not back Republicans.

Close advisers to the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee say he is already privately telling donors that he’ll be a better candidate in 2016 because of the experience that comes from past mistakes.

{mosads}They argue Romney realizes “he’s going to have to do a better job of articulating who he is and why he’s best positioned to understand and deal with the problems Americans face in this slow recovery,” according to one adviser.

“The message he is delivering in these meetings is that, if he makes a decision to move ahead, he’s going to be a better candidate because of experience,” the adviser said. “Will that suffice to erase the 47 percent comment from people’s memories? Only time can tell.”

The comments about the 47 percent, which were secretly recorded and then leaked to liberal magazine Mother Jones, torpedoed him with voters by underlining his image as a corporate rich guy who lacked empathy with the poor and middle class. He described the 47 percent as people seeing themselves as “victims” and suggested those voters were in the Democrats’ pockets.

To break from his image, advisers say Romney will highlight his charitable giving with donors and voters as part of an effort to show “he’s generous to those that haven’t been as economically successful as him,” one adviser said.

“He’s very concerned about how to create greater opportunity for people who haven’t been as successful in this recovery,” the adviser added.  

Still, sources close to Romney acknowledge it will be a difficult sell.

“Only time can tell,” the adviser said of whether his arguments could be successful.

A CBS poll released Sunday found the former Massachusetts governor still enjoys widespread popularity within the GOP. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans want Romney to run in 2016, with 26 percent opposing another campaign.

His advisers believe he can cash in on voters’ “buyer’s remorse” with Obama.

On Saturday, Romney sought to sway skeptics during a speech in San Diego at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting.

And his argument sought to rehabilitate his image to an extent, as he cast Obama as the candidate in favor of the rich.

“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” he said, arguing Obama’s policies had failed.

Democrats are salivating at the chance to take on Romney again.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, says the former Massachusetts governor has “never lived in the world that most Americans have lived in, and that comes across, and that’s the single most damaging factor to his campaign.”

Romney supporters fire back that Clinton would be the flawed candidate if she chooses to run. They point to her paid speeches and comments about being “broke” when she and former President Bill Clinton left the White House to bolster their claims.

“Hillary Clinton is an elitist, out of touch politician who has been chauffeured around by Secret Service for the past three decades,” said former Romney presidential spokesman Ryan Williams. “She’s a poor messenger to launch the dishonest 2012 attacks against Gov. Romney.”

He also faces doubters on the right.

Three weeks after Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) praised him as a “man of character” but argued the comments about the 47 percent had been a disaster.

The story conveyed by Romney’s comments, Cruz said, was that 47 percent of voters “are stuck in a static world.”

“We don’t have to worry about them is what that clip famously said,” the Texas senator said. “I cannot think of an idea more antithetical to the American principles this country was founded on.”

Cruz’s office declined to comment for this story.

Tags Bain Capital Mitt Romney Mitt Romney Politics Public image of Mitt Romney
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