A protest sign outside the University of Miami, where Republican presidential… (Lynne Sladky / AP Photo )
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Mitt Romneyhas repeatedly refused to back down from controversial statements he made to donors that those who support President Obama don’t pay federal income taxes, consider themselves "victims" and are dependent on the government for their needs.
But the multimillionaire GOP presidential nominee spent part of Wednesday pushing back at the suggestion that those statements mean that he doesn’t care for those who are not as fortunate as he is. He insisted that he cares for all Americans, including the poor, and empathizes with those who need government assistance.
“My campaign is about the 100% in America. And I am concerned about them. I am concerned about the fact that over the past four years, life has become harder for Americans,” Romney said during a Univision forum here Wednesday night.
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“This is a campaign about helping people who need help, and right now, the people who are poor in this country need help getting out of poverty. The people in the middle class need help because their incomes have gone down every year for the last four years,” he said.
Romney has been dogged this week by the Monday release of the video, which also showed him dismissing the possibility that he would be able to convince almost half of Americans that “they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
"My job is not to worry about those people," Romney said in the video.
Romney appeared to be referring to the percentage of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes, in many cases because deductions and lower incomes put them below the threshold for such payments. The group is largely made up of retirees, the disabled and the poor. An overwhelming majority of Americans pay at least federal payroll taxes, as well as state and local taxes.
Despite saying since Monday night that his views delineated a stark difference from what he termed Obama’s government-centered society, Romney on Wednesday was taking pains to express his concern about Americans who are struggling.
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“The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class? I do. [Obama] does. The question is who can help the poor and the middle class? I can! He can’t!” Romney told about 1,000 cheering donors who spent up to $50,000 to attend a fundraising luncheon in Atlanta.
And in the evening, he invoked his late father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, who was born in Mexico to American parents and whose family returned to the United States when he was a young boy.
“My dad had to get help, financial help, the government helped his family be able to get on their feet again. By the way, that’s the way America works, we have great hearts, we care for people who have needs. We help get them back. We help lift them up, but then they go back to their permanent lifestyle,” Romney told thousands of Latino supporters at a raucous rally in Miami. “We help people, we get them on their feet and they build a brighter future.”
His remarks drew a mocking response from the Obama campaign.
“Mitt Romney can’t both disdainfully claim that nearly half of all Americans—including seniors, veterans and middle-class families—view themselves as ‘victims’ who are unwilling to ‘take personal responsibility’ for their lives--and that he’ll represent 100% of Americans,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith. “That’s why his closed-door comments to a room of high-dollar donors were so troubling--the American people deserve a president who will represent everyone, not someone who will just write off half of the country.”