Michael Reilly/Daily News-Record/AP
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets some of the 10,000 supporters as he takes the stage during a rally with his running mate Paul Ryan at the Augusta Expoland in Fishersville, Virginia, Oct. 4.

Mitt Romney repudiates '47 percent' remarks. Why now?

This is the clearest mea culpa Mitt Romney has made since video surfaced of him telling donors at a fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans believe they're 'victims' entitled to government aid.

Mitt Romney is now repudiating his famous “47 percent” remarks. In an interview Thursday night on Fox News, the GOP presidential nominee told host Sean Hannity that those words were “just completely wrong.”

That’s the clearest mea culpa Mr. Romney’s made since Mother Jones published video of him telling donors at a Florida fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans believe they’re “victims” entitled to government aid. This 47 percent doesn’t pay income taxes, Romney added, and will never vote for him or take personal responsibility for their lives, so it’s not his job to care about them.

Previously, Romney said that he stood behind the remarks in general, but that they were “inelegantly stated.”

“Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” Romney told Mr. Hannity on Thursday. “In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.”

Why now? If he was going to apologize, why didn’t Romney do it the day the video was released, defusing its impact?

Now’s a better time, for one thing. In the wake of his strong debate performance Wednesday night, this reversal of course appears more prudent, even magnanimous. Prior to this, the Romney camp appeared to believe that saying “sorry” about anything was a sign of weakness, the kind of thing done by losing nominees like Sen. John McCain (R). Now, basking in good reviews from conservatives and the mainstream media alike, the former Massachusetts governor is apologizing from a stronger position.

Plus, the “47 percent” issue has damaged his campaign. As we’ve long noted, individual gaffes, misstatements, instances of umbrage, and so forth don’t generally correlate with movements in the polls. But it seems possible that this did. There’s evidence that President Obama gained a percentage point or more in the rolling averages of major polls following the Mother Jones video disclosure.

That may not seem huge, but considering the closeness of the race, one percentage point either way could be huge in November.

Also, Romney said the remarks were “completely wrong” because they are. No, we’re not going to engage in an argument about dependency and government programs. His words were just factually inaccurate. It’s true that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay income taxes, but it’s not true that 47 percent receive government aid, even if Social Security and Medicare recipients are included in the figure.

Plus, many people within that 47 percent do vote Republican. Southern white voters are reliably GOP, even if they’re on unemployment, for instance. Elderly Republicans collect Social Security checks just as elderly Democrats do.

The more difficult political question may be whether the “47 percent” stuff will continue to haunt Romney’s campaign, despite his apology. It’s possible that swing voters impressed by his debate performance will find his mea culpa reassuring. But it’s also certain that Mr. Obama will still put up ads running the fundraiser video, with little extra commentary except subtitles. Voters predisposed to see Romney as someone who favors the rich may find confirmation in those grainy clips.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Mitt Romney repudiates '47 percent' remarks. Why now?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today