Via Mother Jones and Ace, watch this now if you haven’t seen it elsewhere because political media will be having 20 heart attacks about it tomorrow and you’ll want to be up to speed. This was recorded awhile back at a fundraiser, just like Obama’s infamous “bitter/clinger” comments in 2008. Remember how big that blew up? That’s how we ended up with President McCain.
The dirty little secret of most “controversial” political statements is that voters pay them little mind, especially when they’re preoccupied with bread-and-butter issues. The GOP spent three days in Tampa hammering Obama for the “you didn’t build that” line and a fat lot of good it did them in vaulting Romney past O in the polls. Then again, the GOP didn’t have a media megaphone like the one that’s going to be amplifying this for the rest of the week. The money quote:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. 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…
“And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49 … he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 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. What I have to convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.”
Certainly, the Obama campaign’s never done anything to tout the sort of cradle-to-grave dependency that Romney describes here. I think David French’s recent post about the “bookends” that compose the modern liberal coalition is closer to the mark than Romney’s familiar makers-and-takers formulation here, but he was at a fundraiser and tossing red meat and I guess wanted it to be as red as possible. As for his claim that 47 percent pay no income tax, it’s true but carries lots of caveats. Ramesh Ponnuru wrote an insightful piece about last year; this new article from National Journal is worth reading too. Two political difficulties here. One: While some Obama supporters may not pay federal income tax, they still pay federal payroll tax and may well pay state and city taxes. They do contribute something to government. Two: A lot of pro-Republican working-class voters pay no income tax due to the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a lot of pro-Republican seniors pay no income tax because most or all of their income is Social Security. Not sure how either of those groups will react to Romney’s critique of O’s fans, but my hunch is that Ben Domenech’s right in believing that no one really thinks they’re part of the 47 percent. Everyone thinks they’re a “maker,” not a “taker,” due to whatever little tax they pay, so when Mitt lays into freeloaders, even people who pay no income tax think he’s talking about someone else. It’s sort of the flip side of senior citizens saying that America needs small government while telling politicians “Hands off my Medicare.” I doubt it’ll end up hurting Romney badly, but the media will do its level best. Buckle up!
That’s the first video. The second video is of Romney joking that he’d have a better chance at being elected if he was Latino, which is almost certainly true.
Update: Damage control from Romney’s campaign:
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. 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.