In a hastily called press conference Monday night, Mitt Romney dismissed the viral video that shows him telling attendees at a closed-door fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government checks and “believe that they are victims” and therefore will vote for President Obama.
Romney took only three questions at the presser, and dismissed the remarks as “off the cuff” and “not elegantly stated.” He also claimed the video spreading across the internet didn’t quote him in full context.
“I’m sure I can state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that and so I’m sure I’ll point that out as time goes on but we don’t even have the question given the snippet there, nor the full response, and I hope the person who has the video would put out the full material,” Romney said at the press conference held in Orange County, Calif.
Romney stuck by the underlying message he made at the fundraiser, a much more harsh riff on his standard campaign line that Obama wants to create a society where Americans are dependent on government while he wants to create a society based on “free enterprise.”
“My campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again, particularly those who don’t have work. This whole campaign is based on getting people jobs again, putting people back to work,” Romney said. “This is ultimately a question about direction for 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?”
Romney said the comments he made behind closed doors are the same as the comments he makes in public.
“This is the same message that I give to people, which is that we have a very different approach the president and I, between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams,” Romney said.
Romney dismissed the more negative tone — and sharper messaging — in the closed-door fundraiser, chalking it up to talk about “process.”
“At a fundraiser you have people say, ‘Governor how are you going to win this?’ And so I respond, ‘Well, the president has his group, I have my group I want to keep my team strong and motivated and I want to get those people in the middle,’” Romney said. “That’s something which fundraising people who are parting with their monies are very interested in knowing — can you win or not and that’s what this was addressing.”
Mother Jones posted the video Monday. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called Romney’s remarks “shocking” in a statement.
“It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” Messina said Monday afternoon.
The Obama campaign said Messina’s statement was all it needed to say after the brief Romney press conference.
Romney “didn’t say anything new,” an Obama campaign official told TPM.
But the campaign clearly plans to leverage the remarks. Within minutes of the Romney press conference, the Obama campaign tweeted a link to a fundraising appeal tied to the hidden camera video with the subject line “You won’t believe this.” The campaign also sent a fundraising email to Obama’s email list around the same time.