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Romney defends 'off the cuff' remarks on Obama backers as victims

September 17, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to reporters Monday in Costa Mesa, Calif., about a video that shows him saying that Obama supporters are dependent on government.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to reporters Monday… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Mitt Romney, speaking to reporters Monday evening at a hastily called news conference meant to blunt the impact of a newly released video, said that he chose his critical words about Obama’s supporters poorly but did not back down from their substance.

“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 can state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that,” he said, before calling on the source of the video to release the full recording.

“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 paying 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 as those who are in the middle,” Romney said.

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The GOP nominee, who is already facing internal turmoil in his campaign against President Obama, was confronted Monday by a video showing him describing Obama’s supporters as believing they are victims, reliant on the government for handouts and not paying income taxes.

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon 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,” Romney said in the speech to Florida donors, which was leaked to the news organization Mother Jones. Recorded last May, it was posted online Monday. “That that's an entitlement. And [they believe] the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax.”

Romney said in the video that he had no hope of swaying these people to his side.

"[M]y job is not to worry about those people,” Romney said. “I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

The Obama campaign immediately lashed out at Romney, saying that he had insulted half the population.

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“It's shocking that a candidate for president of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people  view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. “It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”

Romney’s campaign called the news conference Monday evening shortly before a fundraiser at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The candidate stood by his statement and took three questions from the media. He erroneously said the video was released a few weeks ago.

Romney explained his remarks by saying that those who pay no taxes or rely on government services would be less likely to be swayed by his message, and that reflects the differing worldviews of himself and Obama.

“The president believes in what I’ve described as a government-centered society, where government plays a larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of individuals. And I happen to believe instead in a free enterprise, free individual society where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world,” he said.

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter:@LATSeema

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