The video of Gov. Mitt Romney dismissing 47 percent of Americans as unthinkingly marooned in President Obama’s corner is egregious on a number of levels. It remains unclear, though, how much it will hurt him politically, although hurt him it will. And it does offer him an opportunity to come out of his ideological shell – the man sounds a lot more conservative in the video than he’s given credit for – and campaign the way he should have been doing all along.
Let’s start with what he said, as revealed in a video by the left-wing magazine Mother Jones on its website and not denied by Romney himself.
First, let’s roll the videotape.
This is contemptible. First of all, it’s a video of a man who wants to be president of all of us disparaging half of the nation as dolts who vote only their pocketbooks, selfishly demand endless feeding at the government teat, and refuse to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” And, Romney adds, they’re hopeless, and he can’t change their outlook.
This is not a message I can imagine any Republican presidential candidate for the past quarter century or so delivering, even in private.
Also startling here is the dichotomy between Romney the candidate and Romney the fundraiser. Two different people, apparently. The video seems to confirm Romney as the political chameleon even conservatives fear him to be.
And how little he knows about America.
Let’s stipulate that there is a real truth in his point. Democrats have enlarged the welfare state to such an extent that they’ve permanently captured a certain number of people who will vote to maintain the status quo that allows them to pick up all kinds of assistance while refusing to help themselves.
“My job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney said.
Wrong. Your job, both as a campaigner and if you are elected president, is to inspire “those people” to hope for something better, and tell them why conservative ideas will make it happen.
But there are also many people Romney doesn’t seem to know much about who are on assistance because they are ill, have suffered horrible bad breaks in life, or are temporarily down on their luck. And it just shows an utter failure to understand these people to assume that none of them will vote Republican – that they don’t have other issues in and principles they care about that would draw them toward the Republican ticket.
I mean, really, half the country has given up? Brain dead, pessimistic, with none of the American spirit left? What world is Romney operating in? Many of you who read this website and who also oppose Obama are on some form of assistance. I’ve heard your stories, some of them overwhelmingly sad and tragic, and you’re not taking taxpayers’ money because you want to or because you’re addicted to it.
In a hastily arranged press conference last night, Romney tried to sell us the other Romney, the supposedly Reaganesque one.
I’d venture to say this is closer to the real Romney. Actually, let me rephrase that, since there doesn’t seem to be a real Romney. It’s closer to the predominant Romney.
But he still said what he said.
It will hurt Romney with independents, at least. My view is that there are probably many more Obama supporters who could be convinced to walk away from the president than other analysts think exist, and now they’ll be more reluctant. And this won’t go away anymore that “You didn’t build that” is going to go away.
Candidates can, however, survive things like this. Obama made it past Marxist sloganeering about “spread the wealth” and his own contempt for half the nation by condescending to them as “clinging” to their Bibles and guns. Romney’s comments will probably not change many opinions of those who support him, and those who hate him will merely have more grist to chew on.
Romney, if his campaign is smart, would now take this ball and run with it. The slow transformation of a portion of the population into dependency on government largesse is a serious problem that will accelerate during a second Obama term. Instead of just lamenting how bad the economy is, Romney has an opportunity to work this to his advantage by starting to discuss the issues at stake for Obama’s next term – and his alternative plan to fix things. And to tell those stuck on welfare that there’s a better life for them, or for their children.
And Obama, if his campaign is smart, will try to overwhelm any arguments Romney makes by running ads using the governor’s own “inelegant” quotes – as Romney put it – straight through Election Day. The Obama people can actually save some money and wait a couple of weeks until the free advertising ends, when the press finishes its orgy of commentary on Romney’s gaffe.
But the bad news for Republicans is, Obama’s campaign is smart, and Romney’s is not.