Romney remarks draw Republican support and concern

Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:17pm EDT

Related Topics

* A third Republican Senate candidate rejects '47 percent' comment

* McCain denounces critics snipping at the nominee

By Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A third Republican U.S. Senate candidate on Wednesday rejected Mitt Romney's characterization of nearly half the country as slackers, but other party lawmakers voiced support for their struggling presidential nominee.

Republican members of Congress said Romney was making a valid point, though not artfully stated, when he said that 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax and feel entitled to federal assistance.

They predicted that the remark, which has triggered a political firestorm, would quickly fade without hurting Romney or their own chances for re-election.

But President Barack Obama's Democrats are pushing to make it an issue in the presidential and congressional campaigns, even quickly coming up with new ads.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid ridiculed Republicans, telling reporters: "We have a long line of people who are running from Romney."

Reid cited three Republicans in close Senate races who have rebuked Romney's comments - Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Dean Heller of Nevada and Linda McMahon, who is running for the Senate in Connecticut.

Brown and McMahon rejected Romney's comments on Tuesday, shortly after the release of a video showing Romney speaking at a private fundraiser earlier this year.

At the event, Romney essentially wrote off as Obama backers 47 percent of Americans who "pay no income tax" and see themselves as "victims" who are "entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it."

In a brief interview on Wednesday, Heller, whose father was an auto mechanic and mother was a school cook, said, "I disagree with his statement."

Heller said plenty of blue-collar families, like his own, worked hard to pay their bills and make it on their own.

"We should be talking about creating jobs - not about 47 percent who aren't paying taxes and may be on some sort of assistance," Heller said.

Romney's comments have drawn fire from a number of leading conservatives who describe his campaign as sputtering, allowing Obama to build a lead in the polls.

Republican Senator John McCain, his party's failed 2008 presidential nominee, fired back at Romney's critics, saying, "We don't need people second guessing the nominee of our party."

"I had a lot of that in 2008. I didn't appreciate it at the time. I don't appreciate it now," said McCain, who offered his interpretation of Romney's remarks.

"He was saying, and I agree with him, that we need a good economy (to) create jobs so people can get off subsistence programs," McCain said.

While a number Republicans stood up for Romney, publicly dismissing the controversy and voicing support for their nominee, others privately voiced concern.

Senate Republican leaders apparently didn't want to talk about it. They ended their weekly news conference about issues before Congress without taking any questions.

A senior congressional Republican aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, called Romney's remarks "completely bone headed."

"There are two things you can't be in politics: corrupt or out of touch. This builds on the narrative that he's out of touch with struggling Americans," the aide said.

A poll released on Wednesday by Pew Research Center found Obama leading Romney, 66 percent to 23 percent, as the candidate who best connects with ordinary Americans.

A Republican leadership aide predicted Republicans will stand firmly with Romney despite a couple of tough weeks.

"People aren't happy with the way the campaign has been going, but we still have time to win and still feel the economy will be the top issue," the leadership aide said.

Republican Senator Charles Grassley said the Republican nominee needs to step up.

"It's an opportunity for him to do what he hasn't done enough of: emphasize the economic differences and economic philosophies between the two parties and between the two presidential candidates," said Grassley, who is not up for re-election until 2016.

Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte said: "I know that he (Romney) cares about every American ... His vision is one that he wants every American to have opportunities and a good paying job."

Republican Senator Patrick Toomey dismissed the furor over Romney's "47 percent" comment.

"The sense is that press is over-playing it and that Romney is in a strong position," Toomey said, citing the weak economy and Obama's failure to remedy it.

While others have urged Romney to shake up his staff and detail his plans to boost the economy, Toomey said, "He doesn't need me to tell him what to do. He has a plan. I'm sure he will focus on the economy as he has been doing."

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Comments (2)
owlcroft wrote:
All reliable poll aggregators have shown for months now that the presidential election would be an Obama runaway. What now matters is the Congressional result, and recent events have apparently tilted several close Senate races enough that the Democrats now have a high (c. 88%) probability of retaining control of the Senate; moreover, they now seem to have a plausible chance of retaking the House, which was unthinkable not long ago.

Sep 19, 2012 8:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Naksuthin wrote:
It’s sad that every time Democrats suggest helping the poor in America, helping Americans who are out work, helping American college students , helping Americans who are underwater on their houses, or helping victims of natural disasters …. Republicans always insist that victims rely on charitable donations from private sources and not the government.
After all, Republicans say, “we can’t raise the deficit AND we don’t want people to be dependent on the Government”

It’s sad because for the last 11 years Republicans have insisted the government throw billion of BORROWED US taxpayer dollars at people in Iraq and Afghanistan…who never asked for our help to begin with.
We’ve borrowed over 1,000,000,000,000.00 dollars to build their roads, bridges, schools, dams and hospitals. We’ve brought clean drinking water and electricity to their villages and cities. We’ve given cash grants to their small businesses and shops. We’ve flown their sick and wounded to US hospitals where for the best care money can buy. We’ve lined the pockets of their politicians with cash. We’ve trained and equipped their entire police force. We’ve trained and armed their entire army. We’ve even rebuilt the Baghdad Zoo so Iraqis could enjoy watching wild animals from around the world. And we’ve sacrificed over 6000 young American lives to bring a better life to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan

And Republicans willingly spent ALL that BORROWED money without demanding a THING in return….not even a thank you card.

Yet when out of work Americans citizens need an extension in unemployment insurance, or poor people Los Angeles need food stamps, or college students in New York need college grants…the standard Republican response is “We can’t add any more money to the deficit. Besides….That’s redistribution of wealth. That would create a dependent class of people. If Americans want to help we must cut another social program…or they are going to have to learn to fend for themselves.”

I guess the best way for needy Americans to get any help from a Republican Administration is to move to Israel, Iraq or Afghanistan. Then Republicans would fall all over themselves to give you whatever you want…no strings attached.

Sep 19, 2012 8:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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