Yesterday afternoon the liberal website Mother Jones ran what it called a Secret Video in which Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney "tells millionaire donors what he REALLY thinks of Obama voters." The short version is not a lot. Here are some excerpts of the tape that some are saying won President Obama's re-election:
"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what... These are people who pay no income tax. My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Politics as Usual
The Romney clip plays into his image as a soulless, monied elite with neither the background nor inclination to care about the less privileged. The comments were poorly worded and needlessly provocative but entirely in keeping with presidential campaign tradition.
Here's Obama discussing the small town folk in the Midwest and Pennsylvania in April of 2008:
"They cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment... to explain their frustrations."
Is it worse to call those voting for your opponents tax scofflaws reliant on handouts or hostile, gun-toting racists so misguided as to believe in God? Let's call it a push and move on to a candidate who really knew how to start a class warfare brawl.
Here's an oldie but a goodie from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man worth about $60 million, campaigning in 1936:
"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering... They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred."
Romney was speaking to a room full of people who have spent years holding their tongues while being burned in effigy. It was those people to whom Romney was addressing his message. It was awkward, ham-fisted and regrettable, but it was a pep talk for supporters. Had it come from the mouth of the President it would already have been as forgotten as Obama's comment about the religious or Vice President Biden's insinuation that Republicans are pro-slavery.
Is the Election Over?
Bloomberg is saying Romney's comments effectively won the election for Obama. Hank Smith, chief investment officer of Haverford Quality Investments doesn't agree. Cautioning viewers against paying too much attention to the polls, Smith says, "we really need to see these three debates that are coming up, four debates if you include the Vice Presidential debate, and I think that's going to make the difference at this point."
The Romney gaffe will be forgotten by the end of the week, replaced by a mistake from the other side, events in the Middle East or something a Kardashian does. For the most part Americans vote based on the weight of their wallet and their outlook on the economy. Smith says that gives both sides something to cling to.
"Which one do voters pay more attention to, the stock market or the softer economic data, including 8.2% unemployment?" Smith asks. "If you're an Obama supporter you're focusing on the stock market; if you're a Romney supporter you're focusing on the unemployment and soft economic data."
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