Ed Gillepsie, senior adviser to Mitt Romney, told reporters that the Republican presidential candidate is ready to talk about his comments on Americans who don’t pay federal income tax:But that's not at all what Romney said. What he said was that 47 percent of Americans are freeloading moochers who "will vote for the president no matter what." These people, Romney said, "pay no income tax" and as a result "our message of low taxes doesn't connect."
“We wouldn’t be surprised, obviously, if that came up in the debate, and the governor’s prepared, obviously, to respond to that. We believe the voters will see and appreciate the fact that what Governor Romney’s talking about would improve the quality of life for 100 percent of Americans.”
The night the video was released, Romney doubled down. "Among those that pay no tax," he said, "I’m not likely to be highly successful with the message of lowering taxes." Romney also said those voters wouldn't be attracted to his plan to cut spending. "Those who are reliant on government are not as attracted to my message of slimming down the size of government," he said.
So it's abundantly clear that despite Gillespie's spin, Mitt Romney and his campaign didn't (and don't) think his message will appeal to 100 percent of voters. But that's not the mortal sin here: nobody really thinks every political campaign could possibly appeal to 100 percent of voters. The real problem is that Romney went beyond his political analysis and literally wrote them off, not just as potential voters, but as productive members of American society.
We've all seen the quotes before, but they are worth repeating. First:
All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.And then:
And so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.That goes way beyond political analysis. He's not just saying he'll never get their votes, he's saying that 47 percent of Americans will never by worthwhile citizens. If Romney had never said that, this whole thing probably would have blown over—but not only did he say it, but he's repeatedly defended it. And he can't simply make it go away by blurting out some nonsense during the debate about how he really cares about 100 percent of Americans and that anyone who says otherwise is lying about him.
There's a reason that among the two-thirds of voters who have heard about Romney's comments, more than twice as many had a negative reaction as a positive reaction. (Among independents, it was three times as negative as positive and among Democrats it was nearly 18 times more negative than positive.) The reason for the negative reaction is simple: Mitt Romney, using his own words during an unscripted moment that he believed was private, arrogantly and callously dismissed half the nation as worthless. And that's not something he can undo with a scripted zinger.