Some Minnesota Republicans are defending Mitt Romney’s comments secretly recorded at a fundraiser in May, saying they hope he does not back away from his statement that 47 percent of Americans pay no taxes and are dependent on government
“He spoke the truth about the dependency rate,” said St. Paul Republican activist John Gilmore. “That number 47 percent, that comes as news to people and that’s what they are talking about.”
According to the Tax Policy Center, 46.4 percent of American households pay no federal income tax, although most pay other taxes, including payroll taxes.
At a fundraising event in Boca Raton, Fla., Romney referred to the base of voters who support President Obama as “dependent upon the government, who believe 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 has defended the remarks since the release of the video.
For Kelly Fenton, deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican party, that description serves as a clearly worded differentiation of goals of the two candidates.
“Romney was pointing out the difference between his and Obama’s policies,” she said. “We’ve seen as Obama’s solutions – more government. Romney’s solution is less dependence on government, more focus on personal responsibility and freedom to purse the American dream.”
In the 7th congressional district, Lee Byberg, Collin Peterson’s GOP challenger, has also endorsed Romney’s comments, saying “Romney was merely stating the obvious.”
Still, other Republicans – including GOP Senate candidates Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Linda McMahon of Connecticut – have distanced themselves from the comments and worry that it reinforces an image promoted by Democrats that Romney is out of touch with middle-class Americans.
Fenton and others question the timing of the release of the video. By news standards, comments made five months ago, if they were not furtively taped, would be moldering today in an archive folder. “The timing is interesting because it shifted the discussion over [events in] the Middle East,” she said. “It’s a great distraction away from issues in terms of how Obama is handling the Middle East uprising and the embassy attacks.”
Gilmore called the video a non-event. “Secret video? There’s nothing secret. Anyone inside or outside that tent would have heard the whole thing,” he said
Romney’s own comments on the Middle East, meanwhile, have also been the focus of attention. In the video, he says:
“The Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace… And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and I say, ‘there’s just no way,’ and so what you do is you move things along the best way you can.”
According to Gilmore, this is not news. “If it comes as news to someone that the Palestinians don’t want peace, they have not been paying attention,” he said.
News coverage of Romney’s video comments will likely decline in the coming days. But Republicans say they believe his comments have had an unintended silver lining: They resonated with Romney’s supporters.
Gilmore, for one, wants the comments to be repeated. “I wish he were this fired up on the stump.”