, WASHINGTON, Sept 18 – Mitt Romney’s campaign was rocked Monday by a secretly filmed video in which the Republican tells rich donors that nearly half of Americans are government-dependent ‘victims’ who dodge taxes.
President Barack Obama’s team quickly seized on the film, released by the liberal Mother Jones magazine, as proof that the multi-millionaire Romney had written off half the nation, and was not fit to serve as president.
The video was the latest blow to the Romney team as it fought off reports that the Republican’s White House bid is in disarray, as he struggles to close a small but consistent gap to Obama in national polls and battleground states.
In excerpts from the video, which emerged 50 days before the November 6 election, Romney is seen to say in a closed-door, private fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans will vote for the president “no matter what.”
“There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
“These are people who pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Mother Jones streamed the images on its website and said identities of people in them were blurred, and the venue of the meeting was obscured to protect its source.
The explosive tape was the latest in a long line of comments by Romney that have complicated his attempts to shed an image framed by Obama’s campaign that he is a rich businessman out of touch with the middle class.
Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina pounced.
“It’s shocking that a candidate for President of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives,” he said.
“It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”
There was no immediate comment from the Romney campaign.
“It’s shocking that a candidate for President of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims.”
But Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, launched a damage control bid, saying the video raised important issues about the nature of government in American society.
“I think that it is very clear that one of the key issues for Americans to decide is what kind of America you want to have,” Priebus said, taking a shot at Obama’s “cradle to grave” vision for government social programs.
“We are entering into a dependency society in this country,” Priebus told CNN.
Romney earlier dismissed reports, fanned by a story on the Politico website, of internal campaign infighting.
“I’ve got a terrific campaign,” he said in an interview with Telemundo, a Spanish language television network.
“My senior campaign people work extraordinarily well together. I work well with them. Our campaign is doing well,” he said.
Senior Romney advisor Ed Gillespie meanwhile said that the candidate would unveil more concrete plans to voters than he has previously laid out, at campaign appearances this week.