The reason such remarks keep slipping out of Mitt Romney’s mouth is not that Romney wants to wage a class war against lower-income Americans. The likely problem is that Mitt Romney is not a conservative–or at least wasn’t a conservative until late in life–but he is running for president as the nominee of the conservative party on a conservative platform. So he has trouble defending conservative ideas. And when he sells himself to conservatives, he sometimes comes across as a right-wing caricature.

A few on the right are arguing today that Romney’s remarks about those who pay no income tax are in fact conservative. But compare his remarks about this group with his remarks about the “very poor.” In both instances, he reduced a group of Americans to an economic class. In February, he basically conceded that his economic agenda doesn’t really speak to the poor–or those concerned about the poor. In May, he conceded that tax reform, a big part of his economic agenda, doesn’t speak to the half of the country that doesn’t pay income taxes.