White House Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to compare then-presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama saying rural voters “cling” to their “guns” and “religion” with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s characterization of the 47 percent of Americans that do not pay income taxes.
Romney said these individuals “are dependent upon the government, who believe 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” and they will support Obama “no matter what.”
In the White House press briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked Carney how Romney’s remarks differ from Obama’s guns and religion comment during a fundraiser in Pennsylvania.
“The president also has his fair share of private moments that have later been made public. During the 2008 election, he said that rural voters, quote, get bitter, and they cling to their guns or religions. Like Mr. Romney, this was also, you know, said privately to donors and then later made public after the fact,” the reporter said to Carney.
“Rural voters certainly aren’t 47 percent of the electorate, but they are a large demographic. How is Mr. Romney’s comments any different from what the president said?”
“I think that happened four years ago and was discussed in abundance at the time,” Carney responded.
“What the president said four years ago, what he said eight years ago, what he says today and what he said ever since he took office here is that he’s fighting for every American, that he firmly believes that as a nation, we’re all in this together, that what unites us is far stronger and greater than what divides us, that we’re not red America and blue America; we’re the United States of America.”
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter criticized Romney’s comments.
“I think it is troubling that Mitt Romney went behind closed doors to say there is a reason why my policies help people like myself, I don’t care about the other 47 percent,” Cutter said.
“Half of all seniors don’t pay taxes. We are talking about veterans coming home, getting veterans benefits. It is extremely troubling that you’re running to be the president of the United States and you’ve written off half the country.”
Obama said “it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Carney was again asked how Obama’s past remarks about rural voters are any different than Romney’s.
“Then-Senator Obama never said that he did not worry about or would not worry about 47 percent of the population,” said Carney.
“A lot of folks when we travel around the country ask why the president is campaigning on a bus in towns and communities and counties that trend red or Republican. Why is he there if he’s not likely to win the county? Because he’s there to take his message about his economic vision and his agenda for the country to everybody, because he firmly believes that, you know, building this country up helps everybody.”