Mitt Romney’s “victims” tape is bad news for his campaign, runs Washington’s conventional wisdom. It doesn’t do to dismiss 47 percent of America as too dependent on government, in this view, and it’s even worse to say “[my] job is not to worry about those people.”
Democrats are gleeful about what they judge to be an electoral game-changer. Some Republicans are running for cover – Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, for instance, was quick to disassociate himself from Mr. Romney’s expressed views.
But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong? Is it possible this faux pas could actually be good for the Romney campaign?
That’s what some conservatives are arguing Wednesday morning. They say that while Romney’s comments may have been badly put, the whole uproar has handed the ex-Massachusetts governor an opportunity to refashion his campaign message and to emphasize that he wants to lessen the power of government, while President Obama wants to increase it.
“Lemonade out of lemons? If he can refine and hammer home,” tweeted conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, a staunch Romney supporter, on Wednesday.
It isn’t as if the Romney train had been humming on an open track. In recent weeks his campaign has been beset by so many problems, self-made and otherwise, that Politico tagged him “man of constant sorrow.” Remember his botched trip to London? Clint Eastwood’s strange GOP convention appearance? The flap about his hasty statement on the Middle East riots, which we won’t even begin to try to describe?
As the “constant sorrow” song goes, “for six long years, I’ve been in trouble. No pleasure here on Earth I find.” (It hasn’t actually been six years, but it might seem that long if you’re a Romney campaign official.)
In this context, a candidate needs to find an opening where he can get it, to paraphrase Ms. Rubin’s post on the subject Wednesday at Right Turn.
“The Romney-Ryan campaign quite correctly, I think, has seen that while there were certainly problems with how Romney spoke to his donors about the 47 percent, the terrain on which he now finds himself is exceptionally favorable,” writes Rubin.
This terrain, according to Rubin and other conservatives, is ground on which Romney should compare his desire for an opportunity-based society with Mr. Obama’s government-centric approach.
Many people are not in the 47 percent by choice, and they recognize that they are there due to Obama’s economic policies, according to Erickson. They don’t think Romney was talking about them when he used the word “victims.”
“I think the media and the left have badly misread the American mood on this,” writes Erickson.
Conservatives are further heartened by the release of audiotape on which then-state Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois in 1998 says, “I actually believe in redistribution, at least to a certain level to make sure everybody’s got a shot.”
Romney himself has an op-ed in Wednesday's USA Today that attempts to make this pivot away from the literal content of his words toward a more general and more positive message.
Government does have a role to play in helping Americans, writes Romney, but not in the manner the current administration intends. Rather, it “creates the space” for people to pursue their own goals. “Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty,” writes Romney.
But Democrats won’t let Romney easily distance himself from the actual words he used on the already-infamous fundraiser tape. The pro-Obama "super PAC" Priorities USA Action already has an ad up Wednesday using snippets of the tape, including the “victim” remark and the Romney statement of his self-described 47 percent that “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility.”