Romney video adds new wedge to presidential campaign
BY KASIE HUNT & STEVE PEOPLES Associated Press
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
9/18/12 at 3:43 PM
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WASHINGTON - Already scrambling to steady his campaign, Republican Mitt Romney confronted a new headache Monday after a video surfaced showing him telling wealthy donors that almost half of all Americans "believe they are victims" entitled to extensive government support.
President Barack Obama's campaign quickly seized on the video, obtained by the magazine Mother Jones and made public on a day that Romney's campaign conceded it needed a change in campaign strategy to gain momentum in the presidential race.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney is shown saying in a video posted online by the magazine. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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."
"Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax," Romney said.
Romney said his role "is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Romney's campaign did not dispute the authenticity of the video, but released a statement seeking to clarify his remarks. "Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy," spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said. "He is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government."
About 46 percent of Americans owed no federal income tax in 2011, although many of them paid other forms of 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.
Obama's campaign called the video "shocking"
"It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said.
Meanwhile, Obama lodged an unfair-trade complaint against China on Monday and immediately used it as a campaign wedge.
Obama told voters in Ohio, where the auto industry is important, of his administration's new push for the World Trade Organization to sanction China for subsidizing exports of vehicles and auto parts - and costing American jobs.
Romney responded quickly and dismissively. Obama "may think that announcing new trade cases less than two months from Election Day will distract from his record, but the American businesses and workers struggling on an uneven playing field know better," the Republican said.
Romney addressed another sensitive area Monday, immigration, in his speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles.
He pledged to work with both parties to "permanently fix our immigration system." He said a fair and efficient system would never be achieved "if we do not first get control of our borders."
The careful language underscored the fine line Romney must walk between appealing to Latino voters and angering conservatives who oppose proposals for pathways to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.
Obama, speaking in Cincinnati, seemed eager to challenge the notion that Romney will detail potentially painful changes Americans will have to accept to slow the fast rise in the federal debt.
Obama's own spending plans would not balance the budget. But he has offered more detailed tax-and-spending proposals, in part because he must present budget proposals to Congress. In Ohio on Monday, Obama noted that he, unlike Romney, would raise taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year. Romney's platform, the president said, "doesn't add up."
"They say the most important thing we have to do is reduce the deficit," Obama said. "Then the first thing they do is to spend trillions of dollars more on tax breaks for the wealthy. And whenever you ask them to explain the plan, they won't," he said.
Romney's private remarks are the latest in a string of comments from the multimillionaire Republican businessman whom Democrats have criticized as out of touch.
The remarks came at a closed-door fundraiser that Mother Jones reported occurred after Romney had clinched the GOP nomination. To protect the identity of the person who provided the remarks, Mother Jones blurred out the video and did not provide the date or location of the fundraiser. Romney clinched the nomination May 29 and formally accepted it last month at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla.
Original Print Headline: Romney video poses campaign headache
President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at Schiller Park on Monday in Columbus, Ohio. TONY DEJAK / Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Monday in Los Angeles. DAVID MCNEW / Associated Press