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Romney to donors: “47 percent of country depends on government”

DENVER – As Mitt Romney sought to put a difficult week behind him with a shift in strategy Monday and a high profile speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, a new video showing Romney speaking at a fundraiser about Americans not paying taxes has him on the defensive yet again.

In the video of Romney at a fundraiser with wealthy donors earlier this year, posted on the website Mother Jones, the GOP presidential candidate characterized supporters of President Obama as freeloaders who don’t pay taxes, depend on the government and will never take responsibility for their own lives.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney said in the video. “Alright, 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.”

Romney went on to note that those people pay no income tax, which is true — 46.4 percent of Americans, or roughly 76 million people, didn’t pay income tax in 2011 (about half of them earned less that $17,000 that year, and they did pay payroll taxes).

“[M]y job is is not to worry about those people,” Romney continued. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

After issuing a written response Monday afternoon, Romney made a hasty appearance before TV cameras Monday night before a fundraiser in Costa Mesa, Calif.

“I am sure I can state it more clearly and effectively than I did in a setting like that,” Romney told reporters.

“I am talking about a political process of drawing people in my campaign,” he continued.
“My campaign is about helping people take more responsibility.

“This is ultimately a question about the direction of the country. Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits? Or do you believe instead in a free-enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams?”

Obama’s campaign, which has long sought to portray Romney as an out-of-touch millionaire who doesn’t understand middle class Americans, issued its own statement Monday expressing its shock over Romney’s remarks.

“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.”

Four years ago, Barack Obama made a similar gaffe at a fundraiser in San Francisco when he said that voters in blue collar areas “cling to their guns and religion”, which Republicans used to characterize Obama as a liberal elitist.