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Romney slams Obama backers as dependent on government, tax dodgers

September 17, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Mitt Romney addresses the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles on Monday.
Mitt Romney addresses the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Republican nominee Mitt Romney, speaking to donors at a closed-door fundraiser this year, said that supporters of President Obama failed to take personal responsibility for their lives, relied on government for their needs and paid no income tax.

“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 of them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it,” Romney said in a videotaped speech to donors that was given to the news organization Mother Jones, which posted it online Monday.

“That's an entitlement," Romney said. "And 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.”

UPDATE: Romney defends remarks 'off the cuff' remarks

In the remarks, Romney said he had no hope of swaying those people to his side and would instead focus on unaligned voters.

"[M]y job is not to worry about those people,” Romney said, referring to Obama supporters. “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 effectively written off half the population.

PHOTOS: Mitt Romney on the campaign trail

“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.”

Asked to comment on  the controversy, the Romney campaign did not directly address it, instead saying that the GOP nominee is committed to helping all Americans.

“Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly 1 in 6 Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work,” spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in a statement. “Mitt Romney's plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.”

Mother Jones declined to release when or where the Romney fundraiser took place, but said that it occurred after he clinched the GOP nomination.  The video was partly obscured in an effort to mask the location. The Los Angeles Times could not independently verify the video.

The GOP nominee, while discussing how his father was born in Mexico to American parents, also joked about how he would have a better shot at winning the presidency if his grandparents had been Mexican.

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He conceded that he was having trouble winning over Latino voters, an obstacle for the GOP’s efforts in coming elections. And he outlined a campaign tactic of deeming the president as “in over his head” -- rather than an abject failure -- to appeal to swing voters who supported Obama in 2008 but are disappointed by his tenure. 

Politicians are frequently more candid when speaking at fundraisers that are closed to the media than they are at public events; to supporters who have paid handsomely to see them, they offer up inside takes on their campaigns, their policies and their world views.

Obama found himself in a similar circumstances in 2008, when he was covertly taped at a San Francisco fundraiser saying that “bitter” small-town voters “cling to guns or religion.” Hillary Rodham Clinton, then a rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, hammered Obama with his words, and Republicans continue to use them against him in 2012 campaign.

In Romney’s case, his argument that nearly half of the American population pays no income taxes is accurate, at least in recent years. But it fails to note that even those Americans pay other taxes, including the federal payroll tax, state taxes and local taxes. Most of those who pay no taxes at all are either destitute, disabled or elderly.

UPDATE: Romney defends remarks 'off the cuff' remarks

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter: @latseema

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