Mitt Romney is again at the center of controversy following the latest self-induced distraction by the Republican presidential candidate.
Already trailing in the polls in several key swing states, Romney’s problems became even more of a headache following Monday’s release of a secretly-recorded video in which he disparages supporters of President Barack Obama as people who rely on government support and “believe that they are victims.”
The misstep is just the latest in a series of gaffes that have plagued the GOP standard bearer and again steered him off message into a defensive mode.
Romney didn’t deny the tape’s authenticity after a hastily-called press conference in Los Angeles on Monday evening. But he stopped short of apologizing for his words, instead saying they were “off the cuff” and “not elegantly stated.”
He tried to put his best face forward, saying remarks showed a contrast between the president’s preferred “government-centered society” and his belief in a “free-market approach.”
“Of course, I want to help all Americans – all Americans – have a bright and prosperous future,” Romney told reporters.
The Obama campaign quickly pounced on an issue that just reinforced the out-of-touch aristocrat image that Romney has long fought hard to overcome.
The problem isn’t likely to go away soon.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” a clip released by Mother Jones magazine shows Romney telling a room full of wealthy donors during a May 17 fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. “There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.”
Romney, who is campaigning to be president for all Americans, added that his “job is not to worry about those people.”
“I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he added. “What I have to do is convince the five percent to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful.”
About 46 percent of Americans owed no federal income tax in 2011, although many of them paid local and state taxes. More than 16 million elderly Americans avoid federal income taxes solely because of tax breaks that apply only to seniors, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
The blunder is the second in as many weeks to befall the Romney campaign. He was widely criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike last week after a clumsy and unseemly attempt to gain political mileage out of the attacks on the two U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya and Egypt that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens.