Republicans sounding the alarm

The Hill's Overnight - Campaign

 TOP STORY: Republicans sounding the alarm

Mitt Romney‘s comments at a private fundraiser, revealed Monday night when Mother Jones magazine released a secret video of the event, are alarming a number of Republican strategists, some of whom are worried that the fallout could deal a body blow to the GOP nominee’s already struggling campaign.

“It’s a kidney shot because it reveals a very cynical view,” Mark McKinnon, who served as a top strategist to former President George W. Bush, told The Hill. “He’s pushing independent voters out the door.”

Several GOP political strategists were as harsh in their criticism of Romney as McKinnon, though they asked that their names be withheld to speak candidly about their party’s nominee.

These strategists said the video reinforced perceptions that Romney was an uncaring, out-of-touch millionaire. They also worried the fallout would cost him a crucial week of messaging as he struggles to close a narrow gap in the polls with President Obama.

“Couldn’t come at a worse time,” one Republican strategist told The Hill Monday night. “I hope the [Romney campaign communications] team in Boston doesn’t have any sharp objects nearby.”

Obama, taping an appearance on “Late Show with David Letterman” to air later Tuesday, made his first public comments about Romney’s remarks.

“One of the things I learned as president is you represent the entire country,” he said, according to a White House pool report. “If you want to be president, you have to work for everyone.”

He added: “What people want to know, though, is you’re not writing off a big chunk of the country because the way our democracy works.”

He noted: “When I won in 2008, 47 percent of the American people voted for John McCain. … They didn’t vote for me, and what I said on election night was: ‘Even though you didn’t vote for me, I hear your voices, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be your president.’”

Romney looked to pivot from comment about the “47 percent’ by highlighting new audio that shows Obama saying in 1998 that he “believe[s] in redistribution.”

Appearing on Fox News, Romney defended his comments by saying he was drawing a contrast between his own economic vision and that of the president’s.

“Frankly we have two different views about America,” Romney said. “The president’s view is one of a larger government. There is a tape that came out where is the president is saying he likes redistribution. I disagree. I think a society based upon a government-centered nation where government plays a larger role and redistributes money, [that’s the] wrong course for America.”

Romney was referencing a YouTube video linked prominently on the influential website the Drudge Report, from a 1998 conference at Loyola University. In the clip, Obama, who was an Illinois state senator the time, discusses fighting against anti-government sentiment through government reforms, and says that he believes in the idea of redistribution.

Team Obama shot back: “The Romney campaign is so desperate to change the subject that they’ve gone back to the failed playbook co-authored by Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber,” said Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT — ROMNEY REMARK SPECIAL EDITION

There has been so much coverage of Mitt Romney’s remark and its fallout that we’ve complied all of The Hill’s reports in one spot for you:

Vice President Biden refused to fully weigh in on Mitt Romney‘s comment. “I’ll let his words speak for themselves,” Biden said to reporters after a campaign speech in Ottumwa, Iowa.

The White House slammed Romney over the video. “When you’re president of the United States, you’re president of all the people, not just the people who voted for you,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Paul Ryan lamented the problem of government dependency at a town-hall meeting, but he avoided direct discussion of Romney’s controversial comment. “This is what Mitt and I are talking about when we’re worried about more and more people becoming net dependent upon the government than upon themselves,” Ryan said. “Because by promoting more dependency, but not having jobs and economic growth, people miss their potential.”

The Florida fundraiser who hosted the closed-door meal where Romney made the controversial remark said he had not yet seen the video surreptitiously taped at his home.

Even as some Republican strategists and columnists are blasting Romney for his “47 percent” remarks, other conservatives see them as an opportunity. They see Romney’s secret video revelations as a chance to have a real debate on entitlement and tax reform — and to elevate these issues in the campaign.

Romney’s comment that 47 percent of voters pay no income tax appears to come from a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The most recent study by the Center, in 2011, found that 46 percent of taxpayers would not be eligible to pay the federal individual income tax either because of their low income or owing to specific tax breaks.

Large chunks of voters who don’t have an income tax liability vote for Democrats, recent studies and figures suggest, but the issue isn’t as clear-cut as Romney made it seem. Many of these voters are senior citizens who are more likely to vote for Republicans. Others don’t pay an income tax because of deductions championed by Republican lawmakers.

The grandson of former President Jimmy Carter told NBC News that he was motivated by Republican attacks on his grandfather’s foreign policy record to help leak a secretly recorded video that has become Romney’s latest headache.

The Obama campaign said Romney’s statement is completely different from Obama’s 2008 comments that some frustrated voters “cling” to religion and guns. Stephanie Cutter, the deputy manager of the Obama campaign, said then-candidate Obama’s comments, which received wide criticism during the 2008 presidential campaign, were the exact opposite of Romney’s.

Donald Trump said Romney “cannot apologize” for the comments he made. “He has to not apologize, because we’ve seen enough apologizing already, and he cannot apologize,” Trump told NBC News. “What he said is probably what he means.”

President Obama is getting some social mileage out of Romney’s comment about “47 percent of Americans.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The race is not over, he can turn it around, but this is one of the worst weeks in a general election I can remember.” — MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, on Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remark, on “Morning Joe”

Author: AFGE Local 704

Representing over 900 bargaining unit employees working at the U.S. EPA Region 5 Offices in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI and Westlake, OH.

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