Video a major blow to Romney campaign
MITT ROMNEY’S floundering presidential campaign may not recover from videos posted on the internet over the past two days by Mother Jones magazine.
In a previously undisclosed speech to millionaires at a private fund-raiser in Boca Raton on May 17th, Mr Romney discounted almost half the US population as “dependent upon the 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 healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it”.
The 47 per cent of Americans who do not pay federal income tax (in fact 46.4 per cent, according to the Tax Policy Centre) “will vote for the president no matter what”, Mr Romney said.
“So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect . . . My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Mr Romney portrayed the US in the stark dichotomy of “strivers” and “moochers” dear to the late Republican ideologue Ayn Rand and to Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan.
A pre-video New York Times/CBS poll showed 53 per cent of voters believed Mr Romney favoured the rich. On September 13th, he called $250,000 (€192,000) a year – five times the median annual income – a “middle-class” salary. The video reconfirmed Mr Romney was born with a silver foot, as well as a silver spoon, in his mouth.
In a bungled attempt at damage limitation, Mr Romney hastily convened a short press conference at a fund-raiser in Costa Mesa, California, near his Pacific coast home, at 10pm on Monday night.
The candidate said he had spoken “inelegantly”, claimed his frank words to donors were “the same message I give to people” on the campaign trail, and stuck to his contention that people who do not pay income tax will not vote for him.
Mr Romney risked alienating some of his own supporters. “Who are these freeloaders?” conservative columnist David Brooks asked in the New York Times. “Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the veterans’ administration? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?”
Though 46.4 per cent of Americans do not pay federal income tax because of deductions or exemptions, all but 18.1 per cent pay federal payroll taxes – at a higher rate than the 14 per cent paid by Mr Romney on the sole tax return he has released. More than half of the 18.1 per cent who pay neither tax are senior citizens, a key constituency for Mr Romney.