Video: Romney “not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net”

posted at 9:50 am on February 1, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier today, I said that only Mitt Romney could derail Mitt Romney this month.  Did my prediction come true already?  The media and Romney detractors have jumped all over this statement to CNN in which Romney says that he is “not concerned about the very poor,” but that slice of Romney’s statement is entirely misleading — although it’s certainly not adept for a front-runner:

The Washington Post, to its credit, quotes the entire statement rather than just parsing out the controversial fragment:

In an interview with CNN Wednesday morning that should have been a Florida victory lap, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney made a fumble that could give rivals an attack ad sound bite.

Asked about his economic plan, Romney said repeatedly that he was not concerned with very poor Americans, but was focused instead on helping the middle class.

Romney explained that he was confident that food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid and other assistance would keep the poor afloat — he pledged to fix holes in that safety net “if it needs repair.” He repeated past statements that his main focus is the middle class because those people, in his opinion, have been hardest hit by the recession (President Obama also has focused many of his efforts on the middle class).

But Romney’s awkward phrasing could give fuel to critics who argue that he does not empathize with the poorest Americans.

Well, only if the statement gets taken out of context, where Romney clearly commits to keeping safety-net programs in place for the very poor.  Unfortunately for Romney, there won’t be any easier prediction this year than that the truncated quote will end up in attack ads all year long, taken out of context.  The only question will be whether those attacks are limited to Democrats, or if other Republicans will join in on the fun.

In that sense, this is still a gaffe and a worrisome misstep for someone who has been on the campaign trail as long as Romney.  Candidates are supposed to express concern for everyone, not just one particular class, which gets to the more substantial error Romney makes.  As author Brad Thor pointed out on Twitter, the focus should be on fixing the economy so that everyone benefits rather than playing one class against another, as Barack Obama has done.  Romney fell into a class-warfare trap, one he should have seen coming.  It’s not fatal by any means, but Romney had better sharpen himself more for a general election campaign.


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Romney really has to be coached on empathy. His problem is, he’s so good with data and turning businesses around that he doesn’t worry about how his words will be taken out of context. In politics, the words candidates choose mean EVERYTHING, especially if that candidate is a conservative. Whether or not he picks Rubio for his running mate, he needs to spend about a week with him, listen to Rubio’s speeches on an Ipod, and listen to Rush Limbaugh to learn how to articulate conservatism so that he can underline how compassionate it really is. The guys on the Ricochet podcast were talking about this very thing on a recent episode. Romney’s a “First we look at the data,…then we look at the data,…then we look at the data fellow. While I think we really need a president with that kind of laser-like focus on economic data, and the resume to back up his successes with this (SLC Winter Olympics), and Massachusetts (minus Obamneycare).

I really like Santorum, but he is just too strident when it comes to his pro-family stands. Alan Keyes shares the same problem. I’m prolife/pro-family too, very much so. But I can articulate my views with a smile on my face, and with an understanding that all of us are sinners. Of course, if I were running for office, I would probably look just like Santorum and Keyes to many voters. They are both people I hold in high esteem. Unfortunately, schmoozing and nuance are crucial components of successful politicking.

kscheuller on February 1, 2012 at 2:13 PM

George Soros is smiling today…

… Thanks!

Seven Percent Solution on February 1, 2012 at 12:55 PM

None more than Axelrod

Schadenfreude on February 1, 2012 at 2:27 PM

he needs to spend about a week with him, listen to Rubio’s speeches on an Ipod, and listen to Rush Limbaugh to learn how to articulate conservatism so that he can underline how compassionate it really is.

kscheuller on February 1, 2012 at 2:13 PM

I know you are talking about the articulating part, but I think a big part of the problem is that it should come naturally and from the heart and the gut and not something you have to memorize.

MontanaMmmm on February 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM

I know you are talking about the articulating part, but I think a big part of the problem is that it should come naturally and from the heart and the gut and not something you have to memorize.

MontanaMmmm on February 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Hey – trust me – I couldn’t agree with you more. Sadly, Romney is probably the one we are going to be stuck with. Hopefully, he’ll keep McCain at a distance.

kscheuller on February 1, 2012 at 2:32 PM

don’t worry, Newt will seize on this and toss out accusations that Mitt wants to make the poor kids work as janitors at school
gatorboy on February 1, 2012 at 9:58 AM

It was early in the thread but I think this one has to be the winner. It’s humorous, just the right amount of snark, and does indeed shed light on the fact that that’s pretty much what Newt does, attack his opponents for making use of policies he pushed and supported in the first place. Well done.

Boomer_Sooner on February 1, 2012 at 2:33 PM

Hopefully, he’ll keep McCain at a distance.

kscheuller on February 1, 2012 at 2:32 PM

It sounds like you may listen to Rush.
A couple of days ago he said just what I was thinking… in that bringing McCain on the stump with him was a way to shove it in our faces (not his exact words) I’m trying to keep it clean.

MontanaMmmm on February 1, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Willard (from the RAT movie of the same name) IS NOT the inevitable candidate!?! RINO Romney prooved in Florida precisely why he is sooo despised by REAL conservatives and TEA folks!?! Furthermore, Willard WILL get his head handed to him by Soros, Axelrod, and the J@ck@ss-In-Chief!! We are not STUCK with RINO Romney (aka Obama-Lite) yet!?! Even the EVIL George Soros has stated that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Willard and the J@ck@ss-In-Chief!?! Wake UP, America!!! RISE UP, CONSERVATIVES AND TEA FOLKS!!!!!

Colatteral Damage on February 1, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Romney does need to be careful about his words. Wasn’t it enough to just say he wants to improve the economy, create jobs to help the Middle Class and lower Middle Class. Bringing the poor and the wealthy into the same conversation is unnecessary. Now the words are being made into a meme and the lefties are whooping it up. Romney needs to remember he is a wealthy person, so stay away from talking too much about the poor and the rich. And remember MSM is never a friend of any GOP.

galtani on February 1, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Romney needs to remember he is a wealthy person, so stay away from talking too much about the poor and the rich. And remember MSM is never a friend of any GOP.

galtani on February 1, 2012 at 3:06 PM

He shouldn’t stay away from talking rich and poor because he’s wealthy….he should embrace everyone and simply say that he wants to create an environment where there is opportunity for everyone to succeed. He should use his own story (i.e. his wealth) as an example of the American Dream, not a potential land mine to step on. Of course if Romney was a true Conservative he’d approach this issues much better but that is another story.

SleightOfHand on February 1, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Hopefully, he’ll keep McCain at a distance.

kscheuller on February 1, 2012 at 2:32 PM

Flanked by McCain and Dole.

The zeitgeist is not for Mitt.

Schadenfreude on February 1, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Even the EVIL George Soros has stated that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Willard and the J@ck@ss-In-Chief!?! Wake UP, America!!! RISE UP, CONSERVATIVES AND TEA FOLKS!!!!!

Colatteral Damage on February 1, 2012 at 2:44 PM

I’m with you… SALUTE! I’ll give you this little bit of advice though: Don’t use so many exclamation points and question marks, etc, it sounds like you’re a bit unstable when you’re not and takes away from your overall very sincere, genuine, truthful message. Peace

apocalypse on February 1, 2012 at 3:19 PM

don’t worry, Newt will seize on this and toss out accusations that Mitt wants to make the poor kids work as janitors at school
gatorboy on February 1, 2012 at 9:58 AM

Ironically, isn’t that what Mitt did to Gingrich right before South Carolina?

eva3071 on February 1, 2012 at 3:23 PM

…I’m Barack Obama and I approve of this message.

Decoski on February 1, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Meh…

… and Obowma hasn’t spent a $0.10 yet.

Way to go, Mittens…

Seven Percent Solution on February 1, 2012 at 3:51 PM

I ‘m in this Race Because I Care about Americans….

Race? uh oh, he said RACE!

Fleuries on February 1, 2012 at 3:54 PM

Romney isn’t going for the food stamps vote — no Republican will ever get the food stamps vote — he’s going for the “I’m tired of paying for other people’s food stamps” vote, and there are a lot more votes there than there is in the dependent class.

Rational Thought on February 1, 2012 at 4:19 PM

But I can articulate my views with a smile on my face…

kscheuller on February 1, 2012 at 2:13 PM

But is there a point where it REALLY IS something to get mad about?

Cleombrotus on February 1, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Here’s a nice list of Mittisms from Time.com

1. “Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.” —Mitt Romney to a heckler at the Iowa State Fair who suggested that taxes should be raised on corporations as part of balancing the budget (August 2011)

2. “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” –Mitt Romney, using an unfortunate choice of words while advocating for consumer choice in health insurance plans (January 2012)

3. “I’ll tell you what, ten-thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?” –Mitt Romney, attempting to make a wager with Rick Perry during a Republican presidential debate to settle a disagreement about health care (December 2011)

4. “I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.” —Mitt Romney, speaking in 2011 to unemployed people in Florida. Romney’s net worth is over $200 million.

5. “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” —Mitt Romney (January 2012)

6. “PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air.” —Mitt Romney in 2007, responding to criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals following revelations that he had once put the family dog in a carrier and strapped it to the roof of his car during a 12-hour road trip

7. “There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip” –Mitt Romney, attempting to identify with the problems of average folk (January 2012)

8. “I’m running for office for Pete’s sake, we can’t have illegals” –Mitt Romney, recalling his reaction when he learned that there were illegal aliens working the ground on his property, employed by a firm that he subsequently fired (October 2011)

9. “I purchased a gun when I was a young man. I’ve been a hunter pretty much all my life.” –Mitt Romney (April 2007)
“I’m not a big-game hunter. I’ve made that very clear. I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will.” –Mitt Romney, clarifying things a few days later after his hunting credentials were questioned (April 2007)

10. “I’m Wolf Blitzer and yes, that’s my real name.” —CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at the beginning of a November 2011 Republican presidential debate
“I’m Mitt Romney—and yes Wolf, that’s also my first name.” —Mitt Romney, getting his own name wrong (his first name is “Willard,” and his middle name is “Mitt”)

Bonus Quotes:

“[Obama's stimulus program is] one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history.” —Mitt Romney in April 2011, while U.S. troops were fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and involved in airstrikes against Libya

“Who let the dogs out? Who, who.” –Mitt Romney, during an awkward photo op with a group of African Americans kids at a Martin Luther King Day parade (January 2008)

“I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” –Mitt Romney (January 2012)

“In France, for instance, I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past.”
(May 5, 2007)

“Hugo Chavez has tried to steal an inspiring phrase — ‘Patria o muerte, venceremos.’ It does not belong to him. It belongs to a free Cuba.”
(March 9, 2007)

sunshinek67 on February 1, 2012 at 4:21 PM

You’ve had a hard life bro’.

No doubt you felt the same sense of isolation with the smart people hating the stupid.

PackerBronco on February 1, 2012 at 11:13 AM

Now, that right there is funny.

totherightofthem on February 1, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Let’s make a list of Mittisms and Obamateur of the Week quotes. I’m sure most of them will cancel each other out. Does Obama care about me? NO! Does he care about you, probably not. He only cares about getting re-elected so he can finish off America as it once was and destroy the success this nation has had UNDER GOD and INDIVISIBLE. Obama is a divider not a uniter

Atlanta Media Guy on February 1, 2012 at 4:49 PM

“I’m not a big-game hunter. I’ve made that very clear. I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will.” –Mitt Romney, clarifying things a few days later after his hunting credentials were questioned (April 2007)

I’ve read this many times and I’ve seen the video. And still, I burst out laughing each time it’s mentioned. Almost as pathetic as Hillary talkin’ all southern like at a black church.

angryed on February 1, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Romney should have been smarter than this. You have to know that regardless of context, your opponents (be they now or in the general) are going to chop it up to make it look horrible for you. And this isn’t the first blunder out of his piehole.

But this is the most electable guy we got, huh? Axelrod and Plouffe are going to chew him up and spitting him out before breakfast in the general election.

gravityman on February 1, 2012 at 5:02 PM

I don’t think that all the Romney supporters should be running around and caulking each other’s doors and windows quite yet. I think that’s a little premature, if you know what I mean!

bigmike on February 1, 2012 at 5:08 PM

I suspect that Romney has been inside his own campaign bubble so long that he doesn’t notice that there is a real world.

bigmike on February 1, 2012 at 5:13 PM

too rich..too out of touch

liberal4life on February 1, 2012 at 5:35 PM

“It’s not fatal by any means…”

I wouldn’t be so sure of that.

Colony14 on February 1, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Mitt’s handlers had better take him to a supermarket in private and make sure he understands what a price scanner is…

Colony14 on February 1, 2012 at 5:40 PM

This is hilarious. What a bunch of losers you all are, trying to make a big deal out of this throwaway comment taken out of context.

Looks like some people are desperate to try to find ways to attack Romney. This is the best you can do? Try again next time.

You guys are a bore.

Romney will take down Obama.

bluegill on February 1, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Wow, suppose a president Romney would appoint David Brooks or David Frum as press secretary? We can only dream.

carbon_footprint on February 1, 2012 at 5:46 PM

Romney should have been smarter than this. You have to know that regardless of context, your opponents (be they now or in the general) are going to chop it up to make it look horrible for you. And this isn’t the first blunder out of his piehole.

But this is the most electable guy we got, huh? Axelrod and Plouffe are going to chew him up and spitting him out before breakfast in the general election.

gravityman on February 1, 2012 at 5:02 PM

All we hear is how the primary needs to end because its damaging the GOP canidate. I would offer this as proof he needs more primary time so he can learn not to do this at the big show. Otherwise your prediction of what Axelrod and Plouffe will become very true.

Sultanofsham on February 1, 2012 at 5:46 PM

“PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air.” —Mitt Romney in 2007

That is hilarious!! I love that quote. Cracks me up.

bluegill on February 1, 2012 at 6:00 PM

I’ve read this many times and I’ve seen the video. And still, I burst out laughing each time it’s mentioned. Almost as pathetic as Hillary talkin’ all southern like at a black church.

angryed on February 1, 2012 at 4:55 PM

You aint’ seen nothin’ yet, bro!

Wait until the Whitest Man In America does Black Preacher at an AME Church as part of the Romney Campaigns “Black Outreach” program.

Popcorn, please!

victor82 on February 1, 2012 at 6:04 PM

Romney “not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net”

Way to go champ.

chewmeister on February 1, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Mitt Romney has never encountered a red light at an intersection. Nothing stops Mitt Romney.

csdeven on February 1, 2012 at 6:17 PM

looks like the hysterical right wing of the party is at it again :-)…the lanslide last night must have left a bad taste in their mouth, and it looks like it altered their thought process too, not that they ever were rational but still…

jimver on February 1, 2012 at 6:20 PM

Rational Thought on February 1, 2012 at 4:19 PM

It is quite interesting to watch so called conservatives use the class warfare card as deftly as the progressives do. When we add the fact that they support the corrupt Gingrich and attacked free market wealth creation, it makes you wonder if they are just pretending to be conservative.

csdeven on February 1, 2012 at 6:22 PM

It is quite interesting to watch so called conservatives use the class warfare card as deftly as the progressives do. When we add the fact that they support the corrupt Gingrich and attacked free market wealth creation, it makes you wonder if they are just pretending to be conservative.

csdeven on February 1, 2012 at 6:22 PM

It has been quite stunning. What’s more, what is the point of this? Oh no! Romney won’t get the urban poor vote? He was never going to — and Barack Obama needs a helluva lot more than the urban poor vote to get re-elected. I’ll say it again: A lot of middle class Americans are going to hear these remarks by Romney and say, “Damn straight! It’s about time someone started noticing that we’re paying everyone’s bills — including our own — and no one is speaking for us.” Maybe Obama’s team thinks they can spin this down the road to be “Mitt Romney, not for the poor,” but Romney will just re-spin it to “Barack Obama, only for the dependent class – at everyone else’s expense.”

Rational Thought on February 1, 2012 at 7:15 PM

The daily caller has a clip of Krauthammer commenting on this . He thinks this is bad for Romney

pamiam on February 1, 2012 at 8:59 PM

Talking about the poor with a professional Libtard…that can never go well.

Since she had him cornered in a sense, he should have come back with, “Do you mean the ‘poor’ that have cell phones, i-Pods and cable TV?”

He is right, though…the two extremes of the class spectrum aren’t going to be hurt much at all, but it’s still pretty stupid to try to explain this on air to a Socialist “journalist”. The show host pretty much always has the upper hand, be it television or radio.

Dr. ZhivBlago on February 1, 2012 at 9:34 PM

A lot of middle class Americans are going to hear these remarks by Romney and say, “Damn straight! It’s about time someone started noticing that we’re paying everyone’s bills — including our own — and no one is speaking for us.”
Rational Thought on February 1, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Yep. And I’ll be the first to “out” myself. I’m on empty when it comes to sympathy for the “poor”. I finally like something Romney said and it’s considered to be a blunder. Go figure…

lynncgb on February 1, 2012 at 9:36 PM

I am about to turn off the TV, blogs, radio, and Facebook until the primaries are over. I cannot even read a conservative blog like HotAir without seeing every word parsed, every statement torn out of context.

FireBlogger on February 2, 2012 at 12:03 AM

It’s more than a gaffe, it is economic ignorance.

The very poor have to spend more, as a percentage of their income, on food and transportation than those better off. When one considers the fact that gas and food prices have risen dramatically in the last three years with no end in sight, I’d say that there is reason to be concerned about the very poor.

While income inequality has dropped in recent years in dollars, in terms of actual buying power, the poor have had their incomes slashed by Obama’s inflation tax on necessities. Even if one wants to get out of the hole and off the dole, the path to self-reliance has had caltrops tossed on it with the increase in minimum wage and the current policies that discourage hiring, especially on the low-wage, low-skill level most of the very poor are qualified for.

Romney thinks the poor are doing fine because of a safety net? That’s only true in a world where the poor don’t eat, drive, or try to find work so they can stop being poor.

I don’t like Romney, but I expected him to at least understand the basics of economics.

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on February 2, 2012 at 12:58 AM

I don’t consider this an issue but I notice the media are very intimidated by Romney… every interview they’re frightened

apocalypse on February 1, 2012 at 2:04 PM

After listening to this a few times I change my mind. Here’s the part that irks me, Romney said:

“There’s no question, it’s not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor. But my campaign is focused on middle-income Americans. You can choose where to focus, you can focus on the rich. That’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus. My focus in on middle income Americans.”

A President should represent ALL AMERICANS. Like I have been warning you Mitt Romney is a wall street Republican that doesn’t relate well to the average person and he would be very vulnerable as a Republican candidate in November and voters sense that despite the propoganda that the Republican establishment has been feeding them. Thanks.

apocalypse on February 2, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Now now, i’m sure the media will use the “I’m not concerned about the very rich” just as much…..

Wagthatdog on February 2, 2012 at 1:37 PM

Nice job, “Mr. Electable”.

kg598301 on February 2, 2012 at 3:14 PM

SAFETY NET!?!

I made a youtube video about what the “Safety net” did to me and my family! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl_ZP072HkE&context=C33539cbADOEgsToPDskJqOykYcUMPA9ot2cXdDBCw

I’m not going to curse here and get my post pulled – but would someone PLEASE point Mitt Romney to my video and tell him that Tom Bryant, a man whose family was MADE HOMELESS BY THE “SAFETY NET”, is calling him a Son of a (insert curse word here)!

papabryant on February 2, 2012 at 4:44 PM

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