Reporting Tim Kephart
BOCA RATON (CBSMiami) – Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney may be dealing with the toughest crisis of his campaign thanks to the release of a video from a private fundraiser that showed Romney making disparaging comments about President Barack Obama’s supporters and others.
The video was taken at the home of Marc Leder of Boca Raton. The brief snippet of video could become a gaffe Romney can’t recover from, but that’s far from certain. What is known is that with just seven weeks left before the election, the Romney campaign can ill afford a major distraction like this.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney said in one clip. “All right – there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.”
Romney continued, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Leder issued a statement about the video that said: “I hosted a fundraiser for an old friend in May. I believe all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed, to improve their lives, and to build even better lives for their children. I have supported people from both political parties who share this view and make it a priority, even though their ideas on how to achieve it may differ.”
Within hours of the release of the comments, Romney’s campaign sought to clarify, but not walk back any of the comments.
According to the Associated Press, Romney said the video clip where he called nearly half of Americans as victims was “not elegantly stated” and was “spoken off the cuff.” But, he said President Obama’s approach is “attractive to people who are not paying taxes.”
That prompted a Twitter response from Politico’s Roger Simon that said, “Romney’s explanation of his comments may be worse than his comments.”
Romney’s comments mirror statements made earlier this year on conservative blogs and websites that claimed 47 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes. The number has been argued back and forth, but also represents many millions of middle class Americans who use popular tax deductions to lower and eliminate their tax burden.
Romney’s comments also prompted Bloomberg to release an editorial by Josh Barro simply titled, “Today, Mitt Romney Lost the Election.” New York magazine was even more blunt titling it’s article, “The Real Romney Captured on Tape Turns Out to Be a Sneering Plutocrat.”
While the hyperbole is likely to intensify over the next 24 hours, the Romney campaign does have another self-inflicted problem on its hands.
The comments will likely drive the news cycle through the Sunday morning talk shows next weekend, unless something else big happens. Romney lost last week’s messaging on the economy due to getting no convention bump in polling and the bungled handling of releasing a politicized statement on Libya before the facts came in and revealed an American ambassador had died in the attack.
Romney’s campaign also lost the messaging effort it was starting yesterday to get more detailed in the economic policies the campaign hopes to enact. Part of the problem with that message came when vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan refused to give any specifics on the economic plans during an interview.
Romney’s week started out rough with a Politico expose that illuminated what is said to be problems in the internal campaign structure for Romney. Political experts have said that if Romney is hoping that he can reenact 1980, his campaign needs a new strategy due to demographic shifts and Obama’s charisma and appeal.
Part of Romney’s appeal to voters through the campaign has been that he’s not Obama. But, that message hasn’t been strong enough to capture enough of the demographic makeup of the population to push him into a lead over the President.
Romney hasn’t held a lead over Obama since November 2011.
The biggest headache for GOP leaders and supporters has been that all of the distractions to Romney’s campaign have been self-inflicted. That’s not to say that Obama hasn’t inflicted some wounds of his own to his campaign as well.
Obama had problems when he said “the private sector is doing fine,” which the GOP jumped on but found little traction with voters. Then there was Obama’s “you didn’t build that” gaffe which Romney’s campaign used more successfully to appeal to small business owners.
Part of the fear among the GOP is the video will fuel a narrative that came out of the Politico article of a campaign that can’t get its act together and is having problems pushing the campaign forward. The Romney campaign’s push Monday morning to reset the campaign was hoping to deflect attention from the Politico piece.
Republicans are also frustrated because the constant distractions for Romney’s campaign are making it more likely he will lose a very winnable race. If second-guessing is indeed going on inside the campaign, it’s likely it will go public; much like it does for every losing campaign.
The presidential election has just seven weeks left. There are still three presidential debates as well between Romney and Obama. However, statistical experts who have researched campaigns have recently reported that no campaign has ever received a winning bump from a debate performance.
That doesn’t mean it can’t happen this year, but the odds are not in Romney’s favor as of mid-September. With more than a month to go, what looks certain today may be a completely different outcome from what happens when voters hit the polls in November.