LOS ANGELES: Mitt Romney has a new disruption to deal with after a video surfaced that shows him dismissing followers of the President, Barack Obama, as people who take no liability for their livelihoods and who think they are entitled to government handouts. In the video, published by Mother Jones magazine, the Republican presidential candidate tells a private audience of campaign donors the backers will vote for Mr Obama ”no matter what” and that he does not ”worry about those people”.
”There are 47 % who are with him, who are reliant upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are free to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it,” he said. ”These are people who pay no income tax.”
He added that his job ”is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The Mother Jones article said the fund-raiser took place on May 17, in Boca Raton, Florida, at the home of a private equity manager, Marc Leder. In the video, Mr Romney uses language that is far more dull than it is in his public appearances. His comments could dent recent attempts by his movement to present him as a caring and generous leader in his church and community.
Speaking to reporters on Monday night in Costa Mesa, California, where he was attending a fund-raiser, Mr Romney stood by his comments, saying he was talking about campaign strategy, not his vision for the country.
”It’s not elegantly stated … I’m speaking off the cuff in response to a question. We have a very different approach, the President and I, between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams.”
Asked what he meant by ”victims” and ”personal responsibility”, Mr Romney said he was ”talking about the political process of drawing people into my own campaign”.
”Of course individuals are going to take responsibility for their lives. My campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again, particularly those who don’t have work. This whole campaign is based on getting people jobs again, putting people back to work.
”This is ultimately a question about direction for the country. Do you believe in a government-centred society that provides more and more benefits or do you believe instead in a free-enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams?”
The Obama campaign quickly seized on the video.
”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. It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” Mr Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, said in a statement.An Obama movement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said later it is possible excerpts from the video will show up in a forthcoming movement ad.
In the video, Mr Romney said he does not vilify the President because discussions with focus groups of independent voters who supported Mr Obama in 2008 suggest tough talk does not work.
Candidates tend to talk more freely at closed-door fund-raisers than publicly, and when comments leak, they can create debate. In 2008, Mr Obama told followers at a San Francisco fund-raiser small-town Pennsylvania voters ”get bitter, they cling to guns or religion” – a quote used against him on Monday by Mr Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, campaigning in Des Moines.