Getting Romney Back on Message

 

The best that can be said of the recently leaked comment that Governor Mitt Romney made at a fundraiser in May is that President Barack Obama could have said the same, and that is not a good thing. According to a video of the remarks, Romney said:

“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….And they will vote for this president no matter what….These are people who pay no income tax….I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

As Bill Kristol points out at The Weekly Standard, the comment insults many of Governor Romney’s own supporters. “It’s worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes are Romney supporters—especially of course seniors (who might well ‘believe they are entitled to heath care,’ a position Romney agrees with), as well as many lower-income Americans (including men and women serving in the military) who think conservative policies are better for the country even if they’re not getting a tax cut under the Romney plan,” Kristol writes. As a corollary, it’s also worth recalling a fact that anyone who has spent time in New York City knows well: Some of those with the most wealth also have the most contempt for conservative arguments.

One could argue that Romney is merely guilty of misreading the electorate, but the problem with the statement runs deeper. By writing off 47 percent of the country to lives of government dependence, Romney buys the narrative that Obama has been selling of a static society where the poor get poorer as the rich get richer, where Americans “dependent” on government have no ambition to build lives of independence, and where democracy is merely a system for negotiating a never-ending war between two classes — the haves and have-nots.

Romney has never accepted this narrative before, and he should not accept it now. The candidate who once spoke out against Obama’s “bitter politics of envy” needs to find his voice again. Otherwise, Romney’s words will only serve to complete Obama’s most infamous phrase. As Obama told Americans who have earned success, “You didn’t build that,” Romney will have told millions hungering for a better life, “You don’t want to build that.”

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @NathanielWright

    As I wrote here, saying that those who oppose you support FDR’s Second Bill of Rights isn’t a “Guns and Religion” moment.

    Romney/Ryan had been pounding the drums of Obama’s 2008 “Guns and Religion” quote and whatever new Journ-o-list the Left has created is obviously coordinating around this video.  It’s obvious by the number of stories that they coordinated before hand.

    And he isn’t necessarily writing them off, he is pointing out that a candidate who promises to reduce the size of government, cut budgets, and criticizes the growth of programs like Food Stamps, isn’t going to have an easy time winning over those who view those as essential.

    Where he was possibly mistaken was asserting — even if this wasn’t his full assertion — that those receiving the aid universally believe it is necessary and those who don’t universally oppose it.  That isn’t true, but that isn’t what he said.  What he said was two fold.  1) People are rational self actors and those who receive benefits they don’t pay for have a vested self-interest in keeping them.  2) Victocrats exist.

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    @EdwardSmith

    He was too honest, and clumsy.  But he was and is essentially right.

    But it was as foolish and in the long term wrong for him to say what he said as for an English teacher to suggest that a student who is more interested in Math is a bad student.  Such a student is out of balance, as would be a student interested in English to the exclusion of Math, or a student interested in Science to the exclusion of Physical Education.

    But, having said what he did, he stood by the core of his statement, that to be elected, he has to focus on the people he can reach and persuade, not on the people who have already shut him out.

    I walked along with a local politician working my Mom’s building.  He met one person living there, chatted agreeably and with as much force as held up his end without giving the other offense to that person for as long as it made sense, then made his excuse and left, knowing that the person had just wasted his time.

    At the press conference explaining himself, Romney did much the same – knowing who he spoke to.

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    @TommyDeSeno

    He got the sentiment right but the number wrong.

    If the government already gives you free housing, free food, free medical and free education, hasn’t the government “worried” about you enough?  Why should the government “worry” about you any more?

    His problem is the 47%.   That’s got to be way above the percentage of people receiving all those benefits.

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    @KCMulville

    With respect, I disagree – slightly.

    What Romney should have said was that there are 47% of the people who are going to vote for Obama no matter what, and the phrase “no matter what” was the point.

    • Why chase those people? Why focus a dime of campaign money at them? (Remember, this was said at a fundraiser, by a candidate who’s promising not to waste their contributions.)
    • Governing all the people equally (which is his responsibility as president) is different from campaigning to everyone equally. You don’t campaign to everyone equally.

    The crucial point is that these 47% aren’t going to vote for Romney under any conditions.

    Those people are supporting an administration that increases dependency, and if they’re determined to re-elect someone who increases dependency on government, high-minded words about self-sufficiency and self-reliance aren’t going to sway anyone.

    What bothers me is that this is a test of communication. When you’re a leader, you have to communicate (cf. Reagan, 1981-1989). Reagan occasionally said some things that needed cleaning up, but they were, in fact, cleaned up – this is no time for Romney to mumble.

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    @KeithKeystone

    “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy, January 20th 1961

    We have fallen a long way from that sentiment. Today, people expect the government to do things for them. Close to half of America is on some sort of government assistance. It is not a good thing to be beholden to the government. That is a basic conservative argument.

    Mitt Romney can win this argument if he plays his cards right over the next few weeks.

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    @AlbertArthur

    I think you’re misinterpreting Romney’s remarks, Jonathan. He said that 47% of the electorate won’t vote for him. This is not new information. Didn’t Rove famously run Bush’s two (successful) campaigns with a 50+1% strategy? They didn’t worry about the 47% of the electorate that were going to vote for Gore and Kerry no matter what.

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    @MerinaSmith

    The blue state model is dying and the sooner everyone recognizes it the better.  Romney is right.  We can have a good future but we’re all going to need to step up to the plate and be more self-reliant and dedicated to doing what is best for our country–which in the long run is what is best for ourselves.  Haven’t we all had enough of identity politics and crony capitalism?  Well, then, let’s quit buying  into the spin of the lefties and defend our guy.  How would any of us fare if someone followed us around parsing our every word?  I’ve never thought Romney was a weak candidate, as many from OUR side are so fond of saying.  He has exactly the skills our nation needs right now.  Thank goodness soaring rhetoric is not his strong suit.  I’ve had enough of empty soaring rhetoric.  Normally I like Bill Krystol, but right now I wish he’d go on a two month vacation because he has been worse than the left for Mitt Romney and I frankly don’t understand it. 

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    @LeslieWatkins
    KC Mulville:

    • Governing all the people equally (which is his responsibility as president) is different from campaigning to everyone equally. You don’t campaign to everyone equally. · 5 minutes ago

    Exactly. He was talking about the horse race, not horse training.

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    @JonathanHorn
    Albert Arthur: I think you’re misinterpreting Romney’s remarks, Jonathan. He said that 47% of the electorate won’t vote for him. This is not new information. Didn’t Rove famously run Bush’s two (successful) campaigns with a 50+1% strategy? They didn’t worry about the 47% of the electorate that were going to vote for Gore and Kerry no matter what. · 2 minutes ago

    Albert, that’s only part of what he said unfortunately. He wrongly conflated the 47 percent of people who won’t vote for him under any condition with the 47 percent who don’t currently pay income taxes. Those two groups are not the same, and the suggestion that they are the same transforms this campaign into class warfare — the exact narrative that Obama wants. There are many in this country who haven’t made it big today but still dream of making it big tomorrow. Those hopes are what Romney’s campaign should embody.

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    @user_463141

    He should say to the 47% core Obama voters. If any of you consider yourselves takers then he’s your guy, but if you are a maker then then join with me because we have the same goal. Greater prosperity for you and this country.

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    @ConservativeWanderer
    RickB: He should say to the 47% core Obama voters. If any of you consider yourselves takers then he’s your guy, but if you are a maker then then join with me because we have the same goal. Greater prosperity for you and this country. · 1 minute ago

    Now that, I like.

    However, as for this whole kerfuffle… it’ll be blown over by next week, and a new leftymedia-created pseudo-scandal will take its place.

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  12. Profile Photo Member
    @Roberto

    I mourn for  all the electrons being squandered to enable pontification of this silly non-story.

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    @DocJay

    I’d rather go down in flames telling the entitled they can travel to hades than licking the media’s boots.  

    Romney should barely address this and move on to the economy.  Then move on to the economy some more.

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  14. Profile Photo Member
    @JosephEagar

    Honestly, outside of elite political circles does anyone care about Romney’s comment?  Do “undecided voters”?  Conservatives have been complaining about this sort of thing for years.  This is a base election.  I just don’t think these sorts of comments really matter. 

    Obama’s convention bounce continues to dissipate.  Gallup now shows Obama at 47%, Romney at 46%, and Obama’s approval rating at 49%.  I don’t think the collective frustrating with Romney on the part of the media has had any affect on the public at large.

    As for Bill Kristol, what is he thinking?  I would expect this from The Davids, but Kristol?

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  15. Profile Photo Inactive
    @dittoheadadt
    Jonathan Horn

    Albert Arthur: I think you’re misinterpreting Romney’s remarks, Jonathan. He said that 47% of the electorate won’t vote for him. This is not new information.

    Albert, that’s only part of what he said unfortunately. He wrongly conflated the 47 percent of people who won’t vote for him under any condition with the 47 percent who don’t currently pay income taxes.

    It wasn’t wrongly conflated; it was wrongly interpreted as conflating, IMHO. He’s a smart guy, so he obviously knows that if Obama gets 47% of the vote, there’s a whole lotta votes in there from people who DO pay income taxes.  And if Obama gets 52% of the vote, he knows it’s not just the 5% spread who pay taxes.  I don’t think he meant or believes that of the 47% who pay no income taxes, ALL of them will vote for Obama no matter what. That’s where the “inelegance” comes in.

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  16. Profile Photo Inactive
    @CrowsNest
    Jonathan Horn: Albert, that’s only part of what he said unfortunately. He wrongly conflated the 47 percent of people who won’t vote for him under any condition with the 47 percent who don’t currently pay income taxes. Those two groups are not the same, and the suggestion that they are the same transforms this campaign into class warfare — the exact narrative that Obama wants. There are many in this country who haven’t made it big today but still dream of making it big tomorrow. Those hopes are what Romney’s campaign should embody.

    Precisely.

    There is no need to middle class households who, temporarily, receive more in deductions than they pay in federal income taxes (not in all taxes, just in income taxes) because of the child tax credit, mortgage deductions, or because they are seniors. 

    The sentiment, the makers/takers contrast is a good one! Drawing a clear line between a safety net and a social democracy is crucial to this election cycle, and Paul Ryan has been doing this to great effect. 

    The conflation here does damage (although, Bill Kristol may be overreacting just a bit…..)

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Herbert

    Very well said jonathan.

    • #17

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