UPDATED: This Will Be All The Media Cares About Tomorrow

Mother Jones got a REALLY AMAZING scoop with a hidden camera at a Romney fundraiser. Namely, that Romney doesn’t think people who are on the dole and don’t have a particular problem with being on the dole are base Obama voters.

Are you shocked yet?

We can guarantee that this will be seen as the death of Romney’s campaign by the concern trolls in the mainstream media and that it’s proof that Romney doesn’t care about poor people. Y’know, because Romney already said before that he’s not concerned with the very poor.

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capeheart has the quintessential left-wing faux outrage piece on this subject…

Late Monday, Mother Jones released several video clips of a fundraiser where Romney (R-1 percent) tells weatlhy donors exactly what he thinks of those supporting President Obama. In one clip, he contradicts that botched expression of concern for the middle class. In fact, what the Republican presidential nominee said is reprehensible and unbecoming a man who claims to want to be president of all Americans.

Mother Jones said it did not reveal the date of the fundraiser or its location in order to protect its source. But nothing should protect Romney from the avalanche of criticism already coming his way.

As Greg Sargent notes, “[T]he ranks of the oft-discussed 47 percent, many of whom pay no federal income taxes but do pay state and local taxes, are swelled with working class voters and seniors, and many of them are obviously Romney supporters — and hardly think of themselves as Big Government freeloaders.”

That one-minute-seven-second clip lays waste to Romney’s concern “about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” Worse, it reveals it to be a lie. He couldn’t care less about them, it seems. That condescending clip shows a contempt for half the country that demands an explanation from Romney.

Then there is TIME’s Mark Halperin, whose brain reflects Beltway conventional wisdom and nothing else, practicing the art of concern-trolling with the skill of a master

First, the mitigation: Some of what Romney said at the closed fundraiser, he could well have said in public; tens of millions of Americans agree with what Romney said; the press generally is not favorably disposed towards anything Romney does; the media was already in the midst of a feeding frenzy on the “Romney in free fall” narrative; Romney, like Obama in his “guns and religion” 2008 remarks, was to a large extent pandering to donors.

All that mitigation is the proportional and practical equivalent of the foam head on a giant mug of beer.

There are just too many lines in what Romney said that are not politically defensible, especially, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” The reaction from the Romney campaign in a printed statement and from the right on cable, in tweets, and on the web so far is defiance. (“Not damaging bc it’s the truth…47% do not pay income tax! Start reporting on real issues!” “So you’re all proud of driving 10s of millions into Gov’t dependency? BTW, you’ve alienated the 53%”)

This story has secret video (not all of which has been aired yet!); ridiculous, explosive soundbites; controversy; an outraged opposition; and a lot of spinoff angles (reporting galore on income and tax figures; reporting galore on by whom the video was taken; endless speculation/reporting about what Romney really meant, what comparable things he’s said in the past, including at other closed fundraisers, etc).

This is politically devastating because it plays into people’s preconceived notions of Romney as Monty Burns+Thurston Howell. And the bigger potential problem is that the right (Limbaugh, Ingraham, Erickson) will love what Romney said and if he walks it back they will savage him as being a weak-kneed and caving to liberals and the media.

Still, as I see it, Romney’s only chance to try to stem the damage is to do an abject apology, but that really isn’t his style.  He’s up to his eyeballs in the Freak Show now.  There is a difference between what is and what ought to be — and Romney has a heap of trouble tonight.

We could show other reactions, but you get the idea.

Some of what Halperin says has some truth to it – namely, that Romney staking out the position that Obama’s base electorate is a bunch of people who want stuff from the government will put him under fire from Halperin’s legacy media pals, and Romney’s base will want him to stick to that position. That dynamic is true, and the Romney camp’s reaction to the Mother Jones video is evidence that they’re willing to live within that dynamic, at least for now.

But where Halperin is dead wrong, and the rest of the left-wing critique of this will be dead wrong, is the public reaction to Romney’s framing the race as Makers vs. Takers.

Because Halperin and the Left assume, falsely, that people who don’t currently make enough to pay income taxes all define themselves based on that fact.

They assume that people who are going through hard times and have to take food stamps, for example, automatically see themselves as entitled to free stuff from the government and that all of those people will believe Romney’s talking about them in this speech.

He’s not, though. What Romney is saying is that there is a large percentage of the country – he says 47 or 48 percent, which is too high a figure and the only real quibble we have with the statement – which has become too comfortable with an entitlement mentality and which thus can’t be reached by a Republican challenger to Obama. Parsing him, what he’s saying is that to reach those people you’ve got to win the election and improve the economy so that those people have the opportunity to get off the dole; at that point you then whittle that number and the Democrat base down to a smaller number.

In other words, you’ve got to prove yourself with governance.

But in the meantime, you won’t convert people with an entitlement mentality to a conservative political position. And that is an entirely uncontroversial position, Halperin and his pals’ manufactured outrage notwithstanding.

Romney didn’t intend for this remarks to be public, but at the end of the day it’s a blessing in disguise for him. Whether intentionally or not, he’s now framed this race perfectly, not just because the clearer the choice between conservatism and leftism, the better things are for conservatives but also because this country needs a showdown between the two sides once and for all.

If you see yourself as entitled to somebody else’s tax dollars, you should vote for Obama, because he’s about nothing but redistribution of wealth and one way or another it’s all he talks about. But if getting free stuff from the government is not how you define yourself, then you should vote for Romney.

And Capeheart’s formulation, borrowed from fellow lefty concern troll Greg Sargent, that this is bound to offend senior citizens who mostly favor Romney is ridiculous. Those senior citizens aren’t going to see themselves as targeted by Romney and they certainly aren’t going to be offended by Romney’s statement. They’re as aghast at the fact 47 percent don’t pay income tax as any other group, they’re more concerned with deficits and debt than any other group and they believe the younger generations are too dependent on government. The polls clearly show this. And those seniors who are either Romney people or persuadable voters – not to mention the lower-middle class households who are struggling to survive in Obama’s economy but aspire to more than food stamps and/or disability payments – won’t be offended by straight talk from a candidate who says if you see yourself as a ward of the state you’re going to vote for the guy who does nothing but pander to wards of the state.

Let’s go back through the crux of what Romney is saying…

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, 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. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

Whether that number is 47 percent isn’t really all that relevant – what it suggests is that there are six to eight percent out there who are undecided and the rest are split evenly between Obama’s camp and Romney’s camp. And what he’s doing is laying out a laundry list of who constitutes Obama’s base. People dependent on government are Obama’s base, people who believe they’re victims are Obama’s base, people who think the government should take care of them are Obama’s base and people who think they deserve medicine, food, housing and so on are Obama’s base.

Is any of that false?

How many Romney voters live in housing projects? How many people who’ve been on food stamps all their lives – not necessarily the newly poor who have started taking food stamps since their jobs went bye-bye during the Obama administration, but the chronic food-stamp crowd -are Romney voters? How many people who think “health care is a human right” are Romney voters?

Close to none. We all know that.

And Romney goes further in explaining he doesn’t have a message calibrated to attract any of those people.

And, I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49 [percent], he starts with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years.

It’s not difficult stuff – selling lower taxes and smaller government doesn’t really reel in people who don’t pay taxes and/or who depend on the government. The corollary being that Obama can go around pushing tax hikes for the rich and he’ll be cheered on by people who don’t aspire to be rich and aren’t willing to do the things necessary to become rich.

The media will chide Romney by saying “you don’t mention this stuff at campaign rallies, and you’re saying something different to your high-dollar donors.”


Maybe Romney ought to change that. Maybe he ought to start alluding to this on the stump. Maybe he ought to say that we have a president who panders to people who see themselves as victims, helpless and wards of the state. Maybe he should say that his campaign is by and for people who are out front and pulling the wagon rather than the ones riding in it – and Europe is proving that if you don’t have enough folks pulling, the wagon will stop.

That’s a message that will resonate, and what’s more Obama’s response to it will show that he’s on the side of the takers rather than the makers.

UPDATE: A thought – at some point in the backwash to all this Romney should make a statement along these lines to the 15 million Americans who are no longer working and/or are newly on food stamps as a result of the Obama economy…

“Obama thinks those food stamps define you, and he’s pandering to you on that basis with promises of even more free stuff in return for your fealty at the ballot box and your obedience when he tells you what to eat, what kind of car to drive, where you can set your thermostat and so forth. I offer you a different approach – I say I’m going to get the economy growing so you’ll have the opportunity to be self-reliant and maybe even wealthy. You have to make a choice between us, and that choice will define you a lot more than those food stamps do.”

UPDATE #2: Video of Romney’s hastily-arranged press conference about all this (it goes about seven minutes)…

It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. He explains himself without walking back anything he said, he answers three questions and then leaves before the enemy agents in the press corps have a chance to gang up on him, and he also addresses the important point that the reason he’s on video talking about Obama’s voters is that he’s being asked to assess the dynamics of the race.

Romney has nothing to apologize for. In fact, the frank assessment of the electorate he offers in the Mother Jones video gives a clue as to one reason why so many people who attend his fundraisers and/or talk to him in person offer up such a dramatically different impression of him than the general public gets.

A while back, we mentioned that Romney probably ought to present himself to the public as a political version of Winston Wolf, Harvey Keitel’s brilliant character in Pulp Fiction. Wolf is the “cleaner,” the crisis management specialist brought in by the crimelord in the movie to handle a delicate and potentially disastrous situation, and he does so with prickly precision in a short time despite messy circumstances and uncooperative principles. This country is badly in need of a Winston Wolf, and Romney’s history as – the way the Left attempts to paint him – a ruthless, heartless capitalist-pig turnaround specialist makes him a pretty good Winston Wolf.

But it’s not just competence that makes you Winston Wolf. You have to have the persona. You have to be the no-bullshit guy. And Romney, probably on the advice of his consultants, has never embraced that style.

Well, now he has an opening to be that guy. In fact, since he’ll get crushed by his own people if he walks those remarks back he’s got no choice but to be that guy.

Everybody in the country knows we can’t sustain ourselves as a great country with 100 million people on some form of welfare. Everybody knows we need more people doing real work and less people sitting around – even the Left knows that; they just delude themselves with the idea that the way you fix that is to build roads and bridges with government dollars we don’t have.

Along comes Romney, who has tried to make this campaign about the shallow fact that Obama’s economic record stinks – it does, and that’s enough to probably win the election in the end – and found that it’s just not enough to blow open a race which shouldn’t even be competitive right now. He’s had a rather tepid campaign, and a tepid message. He had a tepid convention, though speaker after speaker reinforced the GOP narrative about the private sector’s paramount importance in American life and aspiration. Everything has been functional, competent and good enough to keep Romney in the game to date.

But nothing is a breakout. Since the choice of Paul Ryan as the VP, which was an inspired move on Romney’s part, he’s largely reverted to the same strategy which won him the primary; namely, waiting around for his opponent to implode. That’s likely to happen, but the difference between the Republican primary opponents and Obama is that the media wasn’t going to paper over mistakes Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Ron Paul made like they will for Obama. Because of that, we’re treated to a week of the president’s Middle East policy burning to cinders while the stenographers of the legacy press busy themselves by castigating Romney’s critique of one piece of it, and an almost complete disregard for a jobs report in which four times as many people have given up on finding work than actually getting jobs.

So while it’s highly likely Romney will do well with the late-breaking voters, for this to be the wave election the country needs a breakout would help. And a recasting of the candidate as a truth-teller and a doer – a maker – would give the public something to sink their teeth into. Romney’s statements on that Mother Jones video make him the guy Democrats have been trying to portray him as from the start – but because he’s that guy who defends capitalism and critiques government largesse, what the Democrats don’t seem to understand is that by his being so it means their guy is the opposite. And between a capitalist and a redistributor, Americans will choose a capitalist; particularly when the redistributor is crashing the economy.

He’s got to continue down this road. Never mind what the Beltway media lefties say; it’s his path to a blowout victory.

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