Democratic supporters of President Barack Obama rushed to exploit the video of Mitt Romney’s frank conversations with his big donors, but the governor seems ready to talk over his opponents.
“My campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again, particularly those who don’t have work,” Romney told reporters in California who asked him late Monday about the covertly taped video.
The election “is ultimately a question about direction for the country; Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits or do you believe instead in a free enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams?” he told the reporters.
Numerous Democratic campaign staff, surrogates and supporters focused their ire on Romney’s off-the-cuff statements in the video, partly because it may take the public eye away from Obama’s Middle East problems, and the nation’s stalled economy.
“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,” Romney said in the undated video.
Democrats used that the statement to bolster their long-standing claims that Romney is an uncaring, out-of-touch, job-exporting millionaire.
“It’s shocking that a candidate for President of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives,” said a statement from Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager.
“It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” he added in the 6:11 p.m. EST Sept. 17 message. (RELATED: Jimmy Carter’s ‘looking for work’ grandson claims credit for surfacing Romney video)
Brad Woodhouse, the Democratic National Committee’s spokesman, retweeted a message that read: “How DOES one ‘elegantly’ tell 47% of country they’re freeloading deadbeats?”
The campaign followed by comparing selected quotes to more empathetic statements by Obama.
Romney’s comment about election strategy — “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives” — was contrasted with a Nov. 2008 victory-speech quote from Obama, where he declared that “to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn … I will be your president too.”
Late Sept. 17, Romney pushed back at the Democratic spin during a question-and-answer session in Costa Mesa, Calif.
The comments, he said, were “not elegantly stated. … I’m speaking off the cuff in response to a question.”
“My campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again, particularly those who don’t have work,” he said.
But he also elevated the issue of dependency into a theme for the election.
“We have a very different approach, the president and I, between a government dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams,” Romney said.
The response was underlined with a statement from the campaign that highlighted aspects of the nation’s tough economy.
Romney “is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work,” said the statement from Romney’s communications director, Gail Gitcho.
The new video will likely sideline the media coverage of Obama’s failing Arab-outreach policy, and temporarily obscure the worsening economic news.