Romney backers try to push aside campaign ‘distractions’

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After a week of mopping up damage from Mitt Romney’s remarks about the “47 percent,” Republicans tried Sunday to push aside that issue and other controversies that have dogged their presidential candidate’s campaign, insisting that “distractions” will not decide the election.

“We’ve talked about Mitt Romney’s tax returns, we’ve talked about his speech — the tape of his speech at a fundraiser — we’ve talked about his dog being on top of his car but … they’re not talking about what they’ve done,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to President Obama and his administration.

Mr. Graham and other Republicans hit the talk show circuit Sunday to try and put to rest concerns over the secretly recorded tape that surfaced last week of Mr. Romney telling a room of supporters that 47 percent of Americans are “victims” and believe they are entitled to health care, food, housing and “you-name-it.”

Since the video went viral, Mr. Obama has begun to open up a lead on Mr. Romney in several key swing states.

On Sunday, GOP leaders and Romney surrogates tried to refocus attention on Mr. Obama and the next four years.

“The bottom line is it’s not going to be about the speech he gave at a campaign fundraiser and quite frankly, it’s not going to be about a 14-year-old comment that President Obama made about redistribution,” Mr. Graham said. “It’s going to be about you, your family.”

Mr. Graham was referring to a tape the Romney campaign circulated this week featuring Mr. Obama back in 1998 saying that he supports a certain level of wealth redistribution.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus admitted the last few days were “probably not the best week” for Mr. Romney.

But he tried to shift the focus, revamping a familiar argument often put forth by Republicans: that Americans aren’t better off now than they were four years ago. While insisting that’s still the case, Mr. Priebus said the real question is whether they’ll be better off four years from now if Mr. Obama wins re-election.

“I think the question presented to this country isn’t so much whether we’re better off than four years ago — which we certainly aren’t — but I think the more important question is … whether or not our kids are going to be off four, 10 or 20 years from today,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

And when asked what he thought of Mr. Romney’s “47 percent” comments on “Fox News Sunday,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, brushed off the question, saying he didn’t know the specifics of the comments or what Mr. Romney meant by them.

But as Mr. Walker complained about “sidebar issues” that he said distract attention from Mr. Romney’s message, he also said he wants to see more “passion” from the campaign — a charge many have leveled at the former Massachusetts governor.

“I think for most Americans, particularly in my state, where there’s an awful lot of swing independent voters, they want to know more than what’s wrong with this president,” he said. “They want to know what’s right, and what’s going to move this country forward, and I think Mitt Romney has got that plan.”

“I want to see fire in the belly. I want to see him move forward.”

Meanwhile, Democrats insisted the Mr. Romney’s remarks about Americans who receive government entitlements were more than just “inelegant comments,” as Mr. Romney has claimed.

“Chris, what’s the elegance of saying that 47 percent of people in this country are moochers who don’t care enough about themselves and their place in life to take responsibility?” Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said to “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.

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