* Republican tries to turn missteps to advantage
* Trails Obama by 5 points in Reuters/Ipsos poll
* Republicans fear candidate may not recover
By Steve Holland
ATLANTA, Sept 19 Mitt Romney said on Wednesday
he would do a better job of helping the poor than President
Barack Obama as the Republican tried to recover from a secret
video that showed him dismissing nearly half the electorate as
dependent on government help.
Romney has sought to make the Nov. 6 election a referendum
on Obama's economic stewardship, but over the past week the
spotlight has been fixed firmly on his own missteps - most
recently a video that shows him writing off Obama supporters.
Romney hopes to recover by framing the presidential election
as a choice between big government and economic growth. At an
Atlanta fundraiser, Romney said he wants to spur job creation by
encouraging private enterprise.
"The question in this campaign is not who cares about the
poor and the middle class. I do, he does," Romney said, jabbing
the podium with his index finger and his voice rising with
"The question is who can help the poor and the middle class.
I can, he can't and he's proven it in four years," he said.
Romney's campaign argues that Obama has presided over a
stagnant economy, forcing more Americans to rely on food stamps
and other government assistance.
The video, recorded in May at a luxurious Florida home,
shows Romney telling wealthy campaign donors that 47 percent of
Americans will back Obama no matter what. "I'll never convince
them they should take personal responsibility and care for their
lives," he says.
The remarks fed into a perception that multimillionaire
Romney has battled throughout the campaign: that he is
insensitive to the struggles of less-wealthy Americans. They
drew condemnation from Democrats and an array of Republicans,
including congressional candidates and conservative columnists.
In an apparent attempt to deflect attention from the video,
Republicans are pointing to a recording that surfaced this week
of Obama discussing his belief in "a certain level" of wealth
"Mitt Romney and I are not running to redistribute the
wealth. Mitt Romney and I are running to help Americans create
wealth," Romney's vice-presidential running mate Paul Ryan said
at a campaign event in Danville, Virginia.
Romney had hoped to spend the week fleshing out his plan to
bolster the economy until the video went viral on Monday and
pushed the campaign into damage-control mode. It came on the
heels of a Politico report about dysfunction in his campaign and
a statement on strife in the Middle East that was widely
criticized as unstatesmanlike.
Republicans worry that their presidential candidate may not
be able to recover in the seven weeks before the election.
"There is a broad and growing feeling now, among
Republicans, that this thing is slipping out of Romney's hands,"
Wall Street Journal editorial writer Peggy Noonan wrote in a
blog post. "It's time to admit the Romney campaign is an
A Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll showed Obama leading
Romney 48 percent to 43 percent among likely voters. Among all
registered voters, Obama led 49 percent to 38 percent.
Romney already faced a more difficult path to victory as he
can count on fewer sure wins among the 51 state contests that
determine the outcome of the election. Across the handful of
states that remain competitive, Obama holds an advantage of 48
percent to 46 percent, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll.
Most polls have yet to reflect fallout from Romney's
comments, which were released by the liberal magazine Mother
In the video, Romney gave voice to a conservative
preoccupation that the expansion of income-tax breaks and the
growing reach of government benefit programs risk dividing the
country into "makers" and "takers."
Romney lumped all Obama supporters into the latter group.
Romney was referring to the 46 percent of U.S. households
that paid no income taxes last year and the 49 percent that
received some form of government benefit, from housing
assistance to Social Security pensions. Those two groups include
many Republican voters whose support Romney will need to win the