Democrats pounced Monday on a surreptitiously recorded video of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appearing to denigrate President Obama's supporters as people "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims."
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Mr. Romney tells a small group of wealthy donors in the video, which was recorded at some point after he won the GOP primary. "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."
He added, "And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Mother Jones, a liberal online publication, obtained the video but would not disclose the date or location of the fundraiser to protect the confidentiality of its source.
It could not be ascertained who recorded the video or how it was edited.
Mr. Obama's campaign denounced the Republican candidate's comments as dismissive of half the country.
"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," said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. "It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation."
The Romney campaign didn't dispute the video's authenticity but said Mr. Romney is working 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," said Gail Gitcho, the Romney campaign's communications director. "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."
Mr. Obama and his senior campaign advisers are well-acquainted with the political dangers of such recordings at fundraisers, where candidates usually save their bluntest comments for moments when they know journalists aren't in attendance. At a fundraiser in San Francisco during the Democratic primary in 2008, Mr. Obama told a group of well-heeled progressives that he might not perform well in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary because voters there were "bitter" about broken government promises, and they were voters who "cling to guns or religion."
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Mr. Obama said in remarks that he didn't know were being recorded. "And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Mr. Obama lost the Pennsylvania primary to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In the Romney video, the candidate jokes about his father, who was born in Mexico, saying, "Had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this." Polls show that Mr. Obama, who won the Latino vote in 2008 by about 2-1, is again winning a large majority of Latinos.
Mr. Romney said: "Women are open to supporting me," but "we are having a much harder time with Hispanic voters, and 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."
He also predicted for his supporters what the Obama campaign's strategy would be to defeat him.
"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," Mr. Romney said. "And that may work."
Indeed, the Obama campaign and third-party supporters have vilified Mr. Romney's tenure at the private-equity firm Bain Capital, accusing him of everything from outsourcing American jobs to causing the death of a woman who developed cancer after her husband lost his health insurance.
Mr. Romney also predicted what will happen to the economy, depending on who wins the election.
"My own view is that if we win on November sixth, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country," he said. "We'll see capital come back and we'll see — without actually doing anything — we'll actually get a boost in the economy. If the president gets re-elected, I don't know what will happen. I can — I can never predict what the markets will do. Sometimes it does the exact opposite of what I would have expected. But my own view is that if we get a "Taxageddon," as they call it, January first, with this president, and with a Congress that can't work together, it's — it really is frightening."
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