THE STATEMENTS MADE by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney that were captured in a video released earlier this week by Mother Jones are troubling in two regards. You can consider Romney’s statements as a political gaffe – the less troubling approach – or you can take Romney’s statements as condemning evidence of his authentic beliefs.
For those who have not seen the video, it catches Romney addressing a group of wealthy campaign contributors, during which he said that there are 47% of Americans “who pay no income tax.” Those people, according to Romney, “are dependent upon government,” “believe they are victims,” and “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.” Romney then made it clear that his “job is not to worry about those people.”
For the Romney/Ryan Ticket, these statements were a gaffe in this sense: the statements were made at what was supposed to be a closed-door, private Republican fundraiser. The political fallout from this video’s release is not about what Romney said or even that Romney said it – indeed many backing Romney believe the same thing. What is damning for the conservative strategists is that Romney’s statements were revealed to a more general populist who don’t share those views. The cat was let out of the bag.
In this way, Romney’s blooper is similar to Todd Akin’s rape comment. Here is how the two accidental-truths are similar from a campaign perspective: Akin actually believes a woman’s body can biologically reject rape-sperm as much as Romney actually believes lower-income families are not worth his political attention. But what troubled Akin’s and Romney’s respective campaign’s most is the fact that each candidate’s statements were made out loud and were heard by people outside close Republican circles.
Thankfully for the Romney Party, gaffes don’t typically decide voter’s minds. Political scientist John Sides, from The Monkey Cage, compiled a compelling chart that reflects the public’s response to both Obama’s and Romney’s gaffs. It is surprising to see how little each candidate’s electability changed in the wake of their political blunders. (Whether Romney’s combined gaffes –insulting Great Britain, insulting the London Olympics, and hastily responding to the Libya and Egypt attacks, to name a few – have ended any realistic chance he had at occupying the White House might be a different story.)
But what really matters about Romney’s statements is not that they are making headlines. What really matter is this: Romney actually believes what he said about Americans.
Romney’s statements came during a time when he thought the cameras were off; he was behind closed doors at the Boca Raton home of a wealthy private equity manager. Romney was among friends and colleagues (or so he thought), he was among other Republicans who share his beliefs, and his guard was down. Given that, Romney had no motive to conceal his most genuine views about his political ideologies. This was not an Aunt Sally moment or political set up. Instead, this was Romney being Romney.
Let that sink in for a moment. Romney believes that nearly half the American people are freeloaders who consider themselves entitled to government handouts, and who do not deserve a place within his political dogma.
Romney – a gazillionaire – has been criticized for his lack of connection with middle-class Americans (just think Romney’s Swiss bank accounts, his Olympic show horses, his outsourcing, his blind trusts). Romney’s current statements are the most recent example of that disconnect becoming apparent. Americans are now becoming more and more skeptical of whether they can trust Romney, and question who the real Romney even is.
There is the pro-choice Romney, and then there is the pro-life Romney. There is the pro-individual mandate Romney, and then there is the anti-ObamaCare Romney. There is the back-room dealing, closed-door handshaking, tax return-withholding, Romney, and then there is the Romney, who not long ago during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, when primetime television cameras were rolling, said “MY promise...is to help you and your family.”
Only one thing is for sure at this point: Romney really, really wants to be President of the United States. Or, at least he wants to be President for all but 47% of us.
Trent Latta is a Kirkland attorney and may be contacted at TrentLatta@gmail.com.