Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is on the defensive again,
this time over comments he made at a private fundraising event months
ago that supporters of his Democratic opponent, President Barack Obama,
depend on government and see themselves as “victims.” Political analysts
say it is the latest in a series of missteps for the Romney campaign at
a crucial time in the U.S. presidential race.
The Romney comments come from a secretly recorded video obtained by the
liberal magazine Mother Jones magazine of a private campaign fundraiser
in Florida in May.
Romney told donors that 47 percent of voters will vote for President
Obama no matter what. He then went on to characterize those voters as
dependent on government help and people who see themselves as “victims.”
“There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government,
who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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," said Romney.
Romney is also seen commenting on the situation in the Middle East,
telling donors that the Palestinians are committed to eliminating Israel
and have no interest in peace.
The Romney comments drew a sharp response from the Obama campaign. A
statement said Romney's remarks are “shocking” and that the candidate
had “disdainfully written off half the nation.”
Romney spoke about the leaked video clips at a news conference.
“It’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way," said Romney. "I’m
speaking off the cuff in response to a question, and I’m sure I could
state it more clearly and in a more effective way.”
The Obama campaign quickly issued out a Web video ad with voters
reacting to the Romney comments.
WOMAN #1: “I think the fact that Mitt Romney made all these comments
behind closed doors really shows his character.”
WOMAN #2: “I just think it sends a bad message. I think it’s not the
person I would want representing me.”
Political analysts say the comments could keep Romney on the defensive
for a while.
Analyst Scot Faulkner is a Republican who worked for President Ronald
Reagan and for Republican congressional leaders during the 1990s.
“It’s going to hurt [former Massachusetts] Governor Romney for several
reasons and the first one is that people are worried about the economy,
not social warfare," said Faulkner. "At best, it puts him on to a side
track. And at worst, it could be a sound bite that could be replayed in
countless numbers of commercials going into the election.”
Analysts say Romney is in the midst of a bad two week period for his
campaign that began with little in the way of a boost in the public
opinion surveys following the Republican Party's national convention in
Romney then criticized the Obama administration’s handling of protests
targeting the United States in the Middle East, especially those
directed at the American embassy in Egypt. Even some Republicans thought
his remarks were ill-timed given the deaths of four Americans, including
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, after an attack on the U.S.
consulate in Benghazi.
Longtime political observer Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News says
the recent controversies have taken Romney off of his core campaign
message about restoring the U.S. economy.
“I think this has not been a very good several days for Governor Romney.
He looked opportunistic," said DeFrank. "He looked like jumped to say
something critical before the facts were in. This has not been a wise
situation for him to have waded into.”
Political strategist Matthew Dowd told ABC television’s "Good Morning
America" program that Romney’s best chance to reassert himself in the
presidential campaign will come with the first of three presidential
debates next month.
“I think it all comes down to that first debate on October 3," said
Dowd. "It is the only opportunity he is going to have to shift from
these unforced errors, to shift from these cracks in the foundation and
try to repair it and move on in the final 30 days [of the campaign].”
opinion surveys show that voters still find President Obama more
likeable than Romney.
Analyst Scot Faulkner says that remains a key challenge for the Romney
camp in the closing weeks of the campaign.
“Americans want a leader, but they want a leader they can relate to,"
said Faulkner. "In many ways, Americans are looking at a president who
is not only running for president, but almost running for neighbor. And
if they can’t relate to him, that is going to harm him.”
Recent surveys show President Obama pulling into a modest lead over
Romney since the Democratic Party's national convention, both nationally
and in several so-called battleground states where the two candidates
are waging fierce campaigns.