The Republicans’ failed presidential nominee has inflamed intraparty tension by blaming his loss on President Obama’s “gifts” to young voters and minorities – health coverage, contraceptive coverage in health insurance, forgiveness of interest on college loans – not any failings of his own as a candidate.
Mr. Romney made the comments Wednesday afternoon on a conference call with fundraisers and donors, a few of whom allowed reporters to listen in. Later in the day, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana, new chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), became “visibly agitated” at a press conference when asked about Romney’s remarks, according to Politico.
“No, I think that’s absolutely wrong,” said Governor Jindal, a rising Republican star who is Indian-American, speaking at an RGA meeting in Las Vegas. “Two points on that: One, we have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote.”
“And, secondly,” Jindal continued, “we need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children an opportunity to be able to get a great education. … So, I absolutely reject that notion, that description. I think that’s absolutely wrong.”
Romney was echoing his infamous “47 percent” comment during a fundraiser in May – that 47 percent of the public will vote for Obama “no matter what,” because they depend on government and see themselves as victims. It may have been the most damaging gaffe of Romney’s campaign.
Obama crushed Romney among minorities – winning 93 percent of African-Americans and 71 percent of Latinos – and he won 60 percent of voters ages 18 to 29.
In his comments to donors, Romney said the Obama administration had been “very generous” to those groups.
"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift," Romney said, according to The New York Times. "Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people.”
Romney maintained that he had focused on talking about “big issues for the whole country,” such as military strategy, foreign policy, and job creation.
Top Republicans such as Jindal, who may be contemplating a presidential run in 2016, are trying to steer the party away from blaming voters for last week’s outcome and toward a more inclusive approach to an electorate that is only growing less white with each election.
Jindal also blamed Romney’s loss on his failure to present a “vision.”
“Governor Romney’s an honorable person that needs to be thanked for his many years of public service, but his campaign was largely about his biography and his experience,” Jindal said. “And it’s a very impressive biography and very impressive set of experiences. But time and time again, biography and experience is not enough to win an election. You have to have a vision. You have to connect your policies to the aspirations of the American people. I don’t think the campaign did that, and as a result this became a contest between personalities.”
No word on what Jindal thought about comments Monday by Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, who told a Madison, Wis., TV station that his ticket lost because of Obama’s strength in “urban areas” – another likely reference to minorities.