by Jules Witcover
Mitt Romney's uphill struggle to convince doubting lower-income voters that he cares about them has taken another devastating hit with his worst-yet act of political self-destruction.
Disclosure of that video in which he dismissed "47 percent" of Americans "who are dependent on government" and who "pay no income tax" again throws him on the defensive as hostile to a segment of the electorate he can ill afford to alienate further.
Romney, according to the liberal
The Republican presidential nominee, amplifying his views, said the Obama backers in question "believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
He added that his task "is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them," he said, "They should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." The remarks were a candid distillation of the old conservative Republican rap against "welfare cheats" going back to before the Ronald Reagan presidency.
According to The
The woman, Reagan went on, was getting "
Romney, to be sure, was making no such extensive allegations in his private Florida remarks. But what he did say was quickly seized by the Obama camp to portray him as sharing Reagan's view.
Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, went into full Claude Raines mode. He called it "shocking" that Romney "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."
Romney, pressed by reporters, admitted his comments were "not elegantly stated" but said they reflected his difference with Obama over "a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams." He added: "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."
But Romney's philosophical response is not likely to take the political curse off his reliance on the old Reagan "welfare queen" derogation of recipients of governmental social safety-net programs. This is particularly so as the Obama campaign focuses on the deep cuts in them as indicated in the recovery roadmap of Romney's running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan.
Romney is quickly facing the political reality that his choice of Ryan may please and motivate his
Romney also said he doesn't "worry about those people" because they won't vote for him "no matter what." But once again he finds himself having to defend his own remarks, compounded as ammunition for the opposition by the fact they were made behind closed doors to his big-money donors, to whom the social safety net concept has little personal relevance.
He can depend on having his words thrown back at him in his first debate with Obama in Denver in two weeks. He'd better have a less divisive spin on them ready the next time around.
The Self-Immolation of Mitt Romney | Politics
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