(CBS News) With 49 days to Election Day, a candidate for president doesn't want anything to distract from his message. But it happened in a big way to Mitt Romney. On Tuesday, opponents and supporters parsed a secretly-recorded video of a speech Gov. Romney made four months ago.
At a private fundraiser in a private home, Romney was explaining why he believes nearly half the country would always be the side of President Obama. "All right," he said in the video, "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."
The video was recorded on May 17 and obtained by the liberal magazine 'Mother Jones.' Later Romney characterized the Americans who pay no federal income taxes: "Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. So he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
CBS Chief Washington correspondent and anchor of "Face the Nation," Bob Schieffer, weighed in with "Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley on Romney's latest remark, and how it affects his campaign. A transcript follows:
For a candidate who has fought the perception from the beginning that he's just a rich guy who doesn't understand average folks, I cannot imagine what he could have said that would have hurt his cause more.
As the very Republican Bill Kristol, editor of the very Republican 'Weekly Standard,' and conservative columnist David Brooks have pointed out, the 47 percent of the people who pay no federal income tax are not all moochers -- not by a long shot.
Many are traditional Republican supporters: old people living on Social Security, retired members of the military, as well as poor families who who once they are docked for payroll, state and local taxes, just don't make enough to owe federal taxes.
When Romney says he can't worry about these people because he'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility for their lives, you have to wonder if actually he knew who he was talking to.
Maybe he didn't mean it the way it sounded, but whatever he meant, writing off half the electorate is just not smart politics.