After several days of stumbles on the trail — and internal squabbling spilling into public view — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign vowed to get back to substance on Monday. Romney delivered a speech to a Latino group in Los Angeles, touting his economic plan and touching on immigration.
The spotlight, however, was stolen by a report on the website of Mother Jones. The story shows clips of Romney at what the magazine says is a fundraiser earlier this year, talking very candidly to wealthy donors about what he thinks of voters who support President Obama. NPR has not yet independently verified the authenticity of the videos.
In one of the clips being talked about the most, Romney says:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent 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 health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. 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.
He then continues to say: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
NPR's Ari Shapiro told All Things Considered that Romney appears to write off nearly half the American population, the "47 percent that don't pay income tax," as dependents who believe they are victims, a message Romney doesn't want to send when he's trying to fight a stereotype of being an elitist.
Shapiro says that the clips were originally uploaded to YouTube, and then the anonymous person who did the filming gave the entire video to Mother Jones.
While not directly addressing the video, a statement from Romney Campaign Communications Director Gail Gitcho said:
"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."
The remaining clips include Romney saying he'd have a better shot at winning the election if he had been born to Mexican parents; that he's not attacking Obama "full-bore" because he is trying to win over people who were Obama supporters in 2008; and about declining an invitation to host Saturday Night Live for fear it would come across as "slapstick" and "not presidential."
It's not yet clear how either campaign will react just yet, but Shapiro says this is not where Romney wants the focus just seven weeks before Election Day.
Update at 10:08 p.m. Romney Responds
At a news conference in Costa Mesa, Calif., Romney did not disavow the comments in the video, but said they were "not elegantly stated." He said his campaign was focused "on the people in the middle."
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