DENVER – After two days of brutal press coverage over Mitt Romney’s videotaped remarks that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government, the Republican’s presidential campaign is trying to shift the focus to another clip of audio and a statement President Barack Obama made 14 years ago.
Explaining his own statement about the poor as an “inartful” attempt to articulate a belief in individualism and the free-market system, Romney is pointing to an Obama statement about redistributing wealth in order to sharpen the distinction.
Audio of Obama speaking at a 1998 Loyola University conference first surfaced Tuesday afternoon. Obama can be heard suggesting that society needed to find a way to “structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”
Almost immediately, Romney and his campaign, in full damage control mode, began referencing the Obama clip in interviews and press releases.
“The president’s view is one of a larger government; I disagree,” Romney told Fox News host Neil Cavuto on Tuesday. “I think a society based on a government-centered nation, where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that’s the wrong course for America.”
Romney made the same argument in a column for USA Today Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Romney’s top Colorado surrogates echoed that argument at a press conference at the campaign’s Lakewood headquarters and even argued that it was the Obama campaign, not Romney’s, trying to change the subject.
“He wants to talk about this because he doesn’t want us to talk about the failures of his record,” said Ryan Call, the Colorado GOP chairman. “So in terms of changing the conversation, it’s the Obama campaign doing that. Mitt Romney continues to talk about his vision for a free and prosperous America.”
Bob Beauprez, Romney’s most visible surrogate in Colorado, admitted that Romney’s comments “probably [weren’t] the most eloquent way to make a point.
“But the larger point is what kind of America do we want?” Beauprez continued. “Do we want an America where increasingly more and more people are dependent on government to help take care of their family? Or do we want an America where once again people can find good paying jobs and move up the economic ladder. We still call that the American Dream.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney Wednesday called the GOP attack the sign of a “desperate” campaign that is having a “very bad week.”
Romney’s, secretly videotaped at a private fundraiser for big donors in May, said that 47 percent of Americans, those who support the president, don’t pay taxes and depend almost entirely on the government.
“[M]y job is is not to worry about those people,” Romney said. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
For those remarks, Romney has been pummeled — both by Democrats in Colorado and across the country and by many conservative commentators, lamenting that he appears to blowing his chances of winning the White House in what should be a good year for the GOP.
The comments are already the focus of a new television ad from Priorities USA, the Super PAC supporting the president, which begins with a snapshot of the lavish mansion where Romney’s controversial comments were made.
On Tuesday, Ann Romney, the candidate’s wife, told FOX31 Denver in an exclusive interview that her husband was talking about poverty in American and said that he harbors no disdain for the poor.