September 18 2012

The Romney Tape: Pay Close Attention to What He Actually Said

Charlotte Hays

The Washington Post reports on what it calls “a new distraction” for Mitt Romney’s campaign:

Mitt Romney confronted a new distraction Monday when a video surfaced that shows him dismissing President Obama’s supporters as people who take no responsibility for their livelihoods and who think they are entitled to government handouts.

In the video, published by Mother Jones magazine, the Republican presidential nominee tells a private audience of campaign donors that Obama backers will vote for the president “no matter what.” Romney said that he does not “worry about those people.”

So what’s so wrong with what Romney said? He said: Obama voters will vote for President Obama no matter what. Is that such a revelation? He also said, albeit in an ungainly way, that this is a race about whether we will be a society of growing government dependence or one that returns to an ethic of personal responsibility.

This isn’t such a revelation either, although the left prefers to talk about government dependency in terms of compassion. Sure, it was a mistake on Romney’s part to say he “doesn’t care” about these people. But we all sort of know what Romney was trying to say—this is a constituency that should not be made more dependent with more government programs. Drudge captures the essence of what Romney said: "Romney Gets Real: Obama Supporters 'Dependent on Government'."

Still, this is a big test for Romney. This is Romney’s “bitter clingers” moment. As with President Obama at a posh San Francisco fundraiser, Romney said something in an unguarded moment that is, in fact, quite important. 

The media is not going to let Romney off the hook, is it did when President Obama blurted out something revealing. So Romney needs to be able to explain this. He has not backed down, but that is not enough. He hit upon the fault line in American society. It is not a divide between haves and have-nots—it is a divide between two views of what the the future should hold for the United States.

Romney’s campaign has yet to grasp one fundamental idea about running for office: campaigns matter. Nobody, at least nobody who has the media against him, can just stand there and be elected president, even in this abysmal economy, and even with the president’s Middle East policy in shambles. Hillary Clinton made the mistake of thinking she could just stand there and win in the 2008 primary system. She started campaigning--but too late. Romney still has time. 

The Obama campaign is aggressive; it is urgent; it wants to win. It has established a rationale: no mortal could have solved the problems that confronted a newly-elected President Obama and therefore it would be unfair to turn this likeable man out of office.

Romney isn't presenting a rationale: sure, we need jobs and isn't there something about China and currency?

If Romney can turn this latest “gaffe” to his advantage, he might have a shot at winning the White House.

I’m all ears, Mr. Romney.

PS. Don’t hesitate to take a few potshots at Mother Jones magazine, Mr. Romney.

I can assure you that this is a constituency you’re not going to get “no matter what.” So you might want to highlight the radical nature of your detractors.  

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