Romney to campaign donors: Obama voters "dependent," see selves as "victims"
Updated 10 p.m. ET
(CBS News) Mitt Romney's campaign has responded to a video in which the Republican presidential nominee appears to be shown describing the majority of President Obama's supporters as people who are "dependent on government" and "believe that they are victims."
Video of the comments at a private fundraiser earlier this year., from an anonymous source, was given to a pair of left-leaning media outlets, Mother Jones and the Huffington Post. You can see the relevant portion at left.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney is heard saying in the video. "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 health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That, that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what."
Romney goes on to say that "these are people who pay no income tax. 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect." He 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."
Romney says he has to convince the "five to ten percent in the center" to vote for him, adding that members of this group vote sometimes based on "emotion, whether they like the guy or not."
The Obama campaign pounced on the comments, which are already being compared to then-candidate Barack Obama's 2008 comments in which Mr. Obama said that Americans in rural communities "cling to guns or religion" because of a lack of jobs. Those comments also leaked from a private event and outraged many in the Republican base.
"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," Jim Messina, Obama for America Campaign Manager, said in a statement released late Monday afternoon. "It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation."
In a statement responding to the video, the Romney campaign said "Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy."
"As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work," said Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho. "Mitt Romney's plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs."
Romney's 47 percent reference is tied to findings that nearly half of Americans were found to have not paid income taxes. Conservatives seized on the comments to portray themselves as hard workers tasked with supporting freeloaders. Their opponents noted that most Americans pay other taxes, including payroll and sales taxes. The Tax Policy Center found that in 2009, following the financial crisis, 17 percent of households did not pay any federal income tax or payroll tax, mostly students, the elderly and the disabled.
Mother Jones and the Huffington Post altered the video at the request of the source, who wanted his or her identity protected. After originally not disclosing the date and location of the event, Mother Jones late Monday night reported that the event took place on May 17 at the Boca Raton, Fla., home of private equity manager Marc Leder.
The leaked video includes other notable moments. At one point, in reference to his family's time living in Mexico, Romney says of his father, "Had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this." The comment prompted laughter.
"But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico," Romney continues. "He lived there for a number of years. And, I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino." Polls show Latinos favor Mr. Obama by a wide margin in the presidential race.
Romney also says in the video that the way to reach swing voters is to cast Mr. Obama as a disappointment, since they like him and voted for him. "The things that animate us are not the things that animate them," Romney says. (Watch at left.)
Romney also references his personal wealth, according to Mother Jones, stating that he "inherited nothing." Romney's father was a wealthy automobile executive, and he attended a prestigious private high school; Politifact calls his claim that he did not inherit money from his parents "half true."
"There is a perception, 'Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth,'" he says. "Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America."
Romney is also heard saying that the campaign trail is not a good place for specifics. His campaign has taken criticism from conservatives for not offering more substance, and Monday morning an adviser promised more specifics would be forthcoming.
"We have a website that lays out white papers on a whole series of issues that I care about. I have to tell you, I don't think this will have a significant impact on my electability," he says. "I wish it did. I think our ads will have a much bigger impact." Romney adds that "in a setting like this, a highly intellectual subject - discussion on a whole series of important topics typically doesn't win elections. And there are, there are, there are - for instance, this president won because of 'hope and change.'"
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