Mitt Romney on the Culture of Entitlement
There is no denying that Mitt Romney has had a rough go of things lately. President Barack Obama managed to get a decent bounce out of the Democratic National Convention, though it seems to be diminishing in recent polls, and the aftermath of the attack on the United States Embassy in Libya was contentious thanks to the media focusing on his criticisms of Obama rather than the substance of his comments about the incident.
The latest outrage is that Mitt Romney has written off 47% of voters who he says will never vote for him because they are too dependent on the government:
During a private reception with wealthy donors this year, Mitt Romney described almost half of Americans as “people who pay no income tax” and are “dependent upon government.” Those voters, he said, would probably support President Obama because they believe they are “victims” who are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
In a brief and hastily called news conference Monday just after 10 p.m., Mr. Romney acknowledged having made the blunt political and cultural assessment, saying it was “not elegantly stated,” but he stood by the substance of the remarks, insisting that he had made similar observations in public without generating controversy.
In one clip, Mr. Romney describes how his campaign would not try to appeal to “47 percent of the people” who will vote for Mr. Obama “no matter what.” They are, he says, “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”
He says those people “pay no income tax,” and “so our message of low taxes doesn’t connect.” Mr. Romney adds: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The comments were much more stark than Mr. Romney’s usual remarks, though he typically talks in public about supporters of Mr. Obama’s wanting big government to take care of their problems. He often accuses Mr. Obama and his supporters of wanting to bring a European-style socialism to the United States. In the video clips, Mr. Romney says his campaign is concentrating on the “5 to 10 percent in the center” whom he described as “thoughtful” voters.
From a political perspective, this is bad. It’s going to be hammered for the next week or so and will no doubt be brought up in the debates, which are set to begin next month. Romney was hoping to re-tool his campaign, but whatever his new message was going to be and whatever detail he was going to provide will be lost in the fray of this latest mistake.
Sure, there are some inaccuracies in what he said, but to Romney’s larger point, he is absolutely right. There is a large segment of the voting public that doesn’t want to take responsibility for anything in their lives, whether it is as large as Romney says is up for debate. They do want government to take care of them from cradle to grave.
The problem with Romney’s comments is that this is something that someone, especially if they’re running for the White House, should ever say publicly because of the sensitivities of voters who fit this description. You don’t win an election this way. This is how a candidate alienates voters, no matter if the broader point is a valid or not.
You can’t expect to have an adult conversation with voters, which is what Romney and Ryan have said they wanted, when you’ve effectively written off nearly half of them. At this point, it’s not going to come off sincere and on-the-fence voters are going to cast doubt on what they hear. No matter how true Romney’s broader point is, you can’t say these things on the campaign trial because nothing is private anymore in today’s world.