Coming off his strong debate performance Wednesday, Mitt Romney seems intent on putting as much of the baggage that’s dogged his campaign behind him. But on Sunday, the Obama campaign made it clear they’re not dropping their “47 percent” attack just because Romney’s ready to move on from it, now referring to the comments made at a Florida fundraiser in May as “completely wrong.”
David Axelrod, senior adviser to the Obama campaign, called Romney’s fresh attempt to wash his hands of the comments “unconvincing,” demonstrating that the campaign is not ready to let go of one of their major lines of attack against Romney.
Axelrod pushed back on ABC’s “Face the Nation.”
“That was astonishing for a whole number of reasons,” Axelrod said of Romney’s response. “The first was, three weeks ago, he was asked this same question and he stood by the essence of what he said.”
Secondly, Axelrod argued, the ‘47 percent’ remarks were a thought-out argument, not a stray word.
“But when you look at that tape that was behind closed doors, it wasn’t just a comment. It wasn’t just a word. It was a whole exposition, it was an essay on how 47 percent of the country were shiftless people who wouldn’t take personal responsibility for themselves and so on. I mean, he slandered half the country. To say, ‘whoops, I misspoke,’ is a little unconvincing.”
On Thursday, Mitt Romney completely disavowed his 47 percent comments — changing his tune after largely defending their substance since the footage was made public in mid-September. “Well, clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of question and answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” Romney said on Fox News in response to how he would have handled the issue during the debate if it had come up. “In this case I said something that’s just completely wrong.”
Axelrod’s take echoes what White House adviser David Plouffe told reporters on Friday: “I would take with a huge grain of salt trying to clean something up five months after you’ve said it for the first time and after you doubled down on it.”
Axelrod also spoke to why President Obama didn’t bring up the comments during the debate, a move that puzzled commentators and frustrated his supporters. “He didn’t find the opportunity to raise it,” he said. “I think the president was earnestly trying to answer the questions that were asked on the topics that were being discussed.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.