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Romney says 47 percent of America hooked on government

Mitt Romney has stirred up controversy with a video in which he says Obama supporters consider themselves "victims" owed by the government. The Republican candidate trails the incumbent in polls.

On Monday, the magazine Mother Jones posted comments made by Mitt Romney at a private fundraiser in May and taped without the candidate's knowledge.

In the clip, Romney says 47 percent of Americans "will vote for the president no matter what." He calls this group people "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."

"My job is not to worry about those people," Romney says, adding that he has focused on the dwindling independent and undecided voters.

Romney quickly called a news conference on Monday night to say that his words were "not elegantly stated." However, he added that Obama's approach is "attractive to people who are not paying taxes."

'Depressingly inept'

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina responded in a statement to Romney's remarks: "It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation."

The Obama campaign, often enough using Romney's own words, has proved effective at painting the Republican millionaire as out of touch with the needs of everyday Americans. A recent New York Times/CBS poll found that Obama holds a 21-point advantage over Romney with voters in households with annual incomes under $50,000 (38,000 euros). Romney, on the other hand, has a 16-point advantage in households with incomes higher than $100,000.

"As a description of America today, Romney's comment is a country-club fantasy," the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote in a Tuesday opinion piece responding to the candidate's remarks. "It's what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney. … He's running a depressingly inept presidential campaign."

Romney had already taken a political hit for his comments last week in the wake of embassy attacks in the Egypt and Libya sparked by an offensive anti-Islam video in the United States. Then, both Democrats and Republicans accused of him of being opportunistic and using poor judgment by accusing Obama of sympathizing with Muslim protests even after the US ambassador was killed in Libya. On Monday, just before the video's release, Romney announced that his campaign would refocus on the economy, seen by many as one of his strengths.

Romney has lost his advantage in that area, however, according to a recent New York Times/CBS poll that found that 47 percent of voters now trust Obama with the economy, versus 46 percent for Romney. That same poll found that 60 percent of voters feel that Obama understands the needs of people like them, with only 40 percent saying that abut Romney.

mkg/kms (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)