Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held a surprise late-night press availability to address the maelstrom surrounding hidden camera video that surfaced today, showing Romney telling a crowd of wealthy donors that 47% of the electorate are “dependent” on government because they see themselves as “victims,” and that it’s not his job “to worry about those people.”
Romney offered no apology, other than to concede that his point was “not elegantly stated,” and drew a distinction between a “political process” and what he says in front of people he knows can hear him.
Nothing Romney said at the ultra-brief presser was nearly as newsworthy as the very fact that he held it, a sign of the seismic panic this clip has caused. The campaign was already reeling from a Politico story about campaign disarray that had already dominated much of today’s news cycle. The hidden camera video, taken at a May 17 fundraiser at the home of hedge fund manager Marc Leder, is only the tip of the iceberg. Mother Jones’ David Corn has over an hour of footage from the event, which he says he will begin rolling out “soon.”
That prospect seemed to weigh on Romney between the lines of his presser, as he told the assembled reporters “Whoever has released this, I would certainly appreciate if they would release the whole tape so we could see all of it.” In one news cycle, please!
Romney began by rehashing a statement his campaign put out earlier, then tried to explain his remarks. Asked what he meant when he said that 47% of the electorate are dependent on government because they see themselves as victims, Romney replied, “I’m talking about the political process of drawing people into my campaign. Of course individuals are going to take responsibility for their life, and my campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again, particularly those who don’t have work.”
Asked if he was backing away from anything he said, Romney said “Well, you know, it’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I’m speaking off-the-cuff in response to a question, and Im sure Í could state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that. And so I’m sure I’ll point that out as time goes on, but we don’t even have the question given in the snippet there, nor the whole response, and I hope the person who has the video will put out the full material.”
“But it’s a message which I’m going to carry and continue to carry,” Romney continued, “which is, look, the President’s approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because, frankly, my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them, and therefore I’m in the likely to draw them into my campaign as effective as those in the middle. This is really about the political process of winning the election. Of course, I want to help all Americans, all Americans, have a bright and prosperous future and I’m convinced the President’s approach has not done that, and will not do that.”
The decision to hold a surprise press conference at 10 pm eastern time (Romney was speaking from California) underscores the type of damage the Romney campaign fears from this tape, but it would have helped if Romney had said something that… helped. Give Romney credit for honesty, but all he really did was say the same thing that got him in trouble, but in a wordier fashion, and with a Church Lady delivery. Even given the chance to explain what he meant, Romney still equated unemployment with a deficit of personal responsibility.
The most revealing part of this press conference was Romney’s repeated entreaties that the entire video be released. It’s not likely that he thinks anything on it will help him, but very likely that he just wants this story to be over, already.
Here’s the video, from Fox News, followed by transcript:
REPORTER: Saw themselves as victims or weren’t willing to take responsibility for their own lives and their own future. What did you mean by that?
ROMNEY: Well, you said a number of things there. And the answer is that I’m talking about the political process of drawing people into my campaign. Of course, individuals are going to take responsibility for their life. And my campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again, particularly those that don’t have work. This whole campaign is focused on getting people jobs again, putting people back to work. This is ultimately a question about direction for the country. Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits, or do you believe instead in a free enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams? I believe the latter will help people get good jobs. This is a campaign about how to help the middle class in america and how to bring people out of poverty into the middle class. And we’ve seen the results of the last three, four years, and it has not worked. My approach will get 12 million new jobs and rising take-home pay.
REPORTER: You’re not backing away from anything you said in this video? And do you worry you’ve offended this 47% who you mentioned?
ROMNEY: Well, you know, it’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I’m speaking off the cuff in response to a question and I’m sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that. And so I’m sure I’ll point that out as time goes on. But we don’t even have the question given the snippet there nor the full response, and i hope the person who has the video would pul put out the full material. But it’s a message which I’m going to carry and continue to carry which is look. The president’s approach is attractive to people who are not paeg taxes because, frankly, my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them and therefore I’m not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively to those in the middle. This is a discussion about the political process of winning the election. And of course I want to help all americans, all americans have a great and prosperous future. And I’m convinced that the president’s approach has not done that and will not do that.
REPORTER: This is now the second time where you’ve made comments at a fundraiser to donors that are different from what you say on the trail. What assurances can you give the voters.
ROMNEY: You’re coming to my fundraiser and this the same message that I give to people which is that we have a different approach the president and I between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams. I’m talking about the process of campaigns. Typically I don’t talk about process in speeches because i think candidates are wiser to talk about policy and their vision than to talk about how they’re going to win an election at a fundraiser. You have people say how are you going is to win this and so i respond the president has his group, I have my group. I want to keep my team trong and motivated and I want to get the people in the middle. And it’s something which fundraiser people are interested in, can you win or not.
REPORTER: Are those things you believe? Are those core convictions?
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