WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney, during a private fundraiser captured on video, told a group of donors in much blunter terms than he does publicly how he feels about the election. He joked about his wealth, and quipped that he would have a better shot at victory if he were Latino.
But the most striking portion of the video—clips of which were apparently taken surreptitiously earlier this year, began surfacing online in recent weeks, and appeared in more depth this afternoon on the website of Mother Jones—shows Romney talking in disparaging ways about nearly half of the electorate.
Romney dismisses supporters of President Obama as people who are so dependent on government for their existence that they will support the president no matter what.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” he said, over sounds of waiters pouring drinks and clearing plates. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that 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. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”
“My job is is not to worry about those people,” he added. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, immediately took issue with that comment.
“It’s shocking that a candidate for president of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives,” Messina said in a statment. “It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”
In response to a request for comment about the video, Gail Gitcho, Romney’s campaign communications director, issued the following statement: “Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney’s plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.”
Few of the other clips are damning in and of themselves – and some showcase him talking more comfortably than he does in staged settings—but they play into some of the images people may already have of Romney as an out-of-touch politician. The video is reminiscent of Obama’s comment in 2008 that people “cling to guns or religion,” and it is a reminder that few moments in a politician’s life are private.
“My dad…was born in Mexico,” Romney said in one clip. “Had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this…I mean, I say that jokingly. But it would be helpful to be Latino.”
He noted that the campaign was limiting the activity of his wife (“We use Ann sparingly right now, so that people don’t get tired of her”) and that he had decided to turn down an appearance on Saturday Night Live (because, he said, it “has the potential of looking slapstick and not presidential.”)
Romney also spoke of his wealth, claiming that he is a self-made millionaire.
“I have inherited nothing,” he said. “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”
Although Romney made almost all of his fortune himself, his family provided a strong safety net, sometimes more. His parents gave him money to buy his first home, and Ann Romney once explained that neither she nor her husband worked while at Brigham Young University, because Romney “had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.”
The Globe on Saturday reported on one of the clips, in which Romney talks about touring a factory in China when he was at Bain Capital, as part of a story about Romney’s investments in China. That 2-minute clip showed Romney describing some of the spartan working conditions at a company Bain officials were planning to buy. Romney said the women were packed into dormitories, 12 per room in bunk beds, and only earned a “pittance.”
Other small snippets of the fundraisers were uploaded to YouTube several weeks ago by a user with the pseudonym “Anne Onymous.”
The magazine Mother Jones obtained a complete video of the fundraiser, and posted several fuller clips from it on Monday afternoon. To protect its source, the magazine was not identifying the date or location of the event, but said it occurred after Romney had clinched the Republican nomination.
The video was shot from one of the tables at a fundraiser, with candles visible and clinking silverware in the background. Romney can be seen in the background, and his voice is heard clearly throughout the video.
At one point during the fundraiser, Romney said that although women are “open” to supporting his campaign, they were having a much harder time with Hispanic voters.
“If the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting block has in the past, why, we’re in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation,” Romney said.
When asked how they could help Romney, the candidate replied, “Frankly, what I need you to do is to raise millions of dollars.”
Romney said during the fundraiser that he wasn’t being harder in attacking Obama because his campaign thought doing so would alienate independent voters who voted for Obama in 2008.
“Those people that we have to get, they want to believe they did the right thing, but he just wasn’t up to the task,” Romney said. “They love the phrase that he’s ‘over his head.’ ”
“What he’s going to do, by the way, is try and vilify me as someone who’s been successful, or who’s, you know, closed businesses or laid people off, and is an evil bad guy,” Romney added. “And that may work.”
Romney also said that he didn’t think the election would be decided on substantive issues.
“We have a website that lays out white papers on a whole series of issues that I care about,” he said. “I have to tell you, I don’t think this will have a significant impact on my electability. I wish it did. I think our ads will have a much bigger impact. I think the debates will have a big impact.”
“In a setting like this, a highly intellectual subject—discussion on a whole series of important topics typically doesn’t win elections,” he added.Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.