WASHINGTON, DC – Mitt Romney described almost half of Americans as “dependent upon government” during a private reception with donors earlier this year and said those voters will likely support President Obama because they believe they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
The blunt political and cultural assessment by the Republican presidential candidate offers a rare glimpse into Mr. Romney’s personal views as the campaign enters its final 50 days. Liberals quickly condemned the remarks as insensitive and Mr. Obama’s campaign accused him of having “disdainfully written off half the nation.”
The recordings surfaced even as Mr. Romney sought to retool his campaign message amid internal campaign sniping and calls from Republicans outside the campaign for him to be more specific about how his policies will fix the nation’s economy.
The video clips raised the possibility that his campaign would once again be sidetracked by Mr. Romney’s own words, a problem that has plagued the former Massachusetts governor since his hard-fought battle with Republican rivals during the nominating contests earlier this year.
The video of Mr. Romney making the comments was posted on the Internet Monday afternoon by Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, which said it had obtained the recording and had confirmed its authenticity. The magazine said it was concealing the identity of the person who took the video and the location and time of the recording.
The New York Times is unable to confirm where or when the clips were taken. The author of the article on the Mother Jones Web site, David Corn, said the video was taken after Mr. Romney won the Republican nominating contest, but he declined to comment further.
In one video segment, Mr. Romney described how his campaign is writing off “47 percent of the people” who will vote for Mr. Obama “no matter what.” He adds that those people “are people who pay no income tax” and says “so our message of low taxes doesn’t connect.”
Mr. Romney said that “my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The comments by Mr. Romney were more stark than usual, though he typically talks in public about supporters of Mr. Obama wanting big government to take care of their problems. He often accuses Mr. Obama and his supporters of wanting to bring a European-style socialism to the United States.
In the videos, Mr. Romney says that his campaign is concentrating on the “5 to 10 percent in the center” whom he describes as “thoughtful” when it comes to deciding who to vote for.
Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, said in a statement Monday evening that it was “shocking” that Mr. Romney would “go behind closed doors” to describe nearly half of the country in such terms.
“It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” Mr. Messina wrote.
Gail Gitcho, the communications director for Mr. Romney, said in a statement that Mr. Romney is “concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work.”
The videos, which are blurry, nonetheless clearly show Mr. Romney as he engages in a lengthy discussion about his quest to win the White House from Mr. Obama.
In other segments of the fund-raiser, Mr. Romney speaks candidly — and confidently — about the challenges that he faces going up against an incumbent president. He dismisses the idea of providing more specifics about his policy proposals, saying providing a “highly intellectual” discussion of such issues “typically doesn’t win elections.”
He said his campaign had put out “white papers” on a series of subjects, but added: “I have to tell you, I don’t think this will have a significant impact on my electability. I wish it did.”
Mr. Romney also predicted that stock markets would likely rise if he wins in November.
“There will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country,” he said. “We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see — without actually doing anything — we’ll actually get a boost in the economy,” he said. “If the president gets re-elected, I don’t know what will happen. I can, I can never predict what the markets will do.”
But the most striking part of the video is Mr. Romney’s characterization of nearly half of the country. His assessment of the “47 percent” echoes a line of conservative thinking that has been championed by his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan. Mr. Ryan has long argued that nearly half of the people in America are either “dependent” or “reliant” on the federal government.
“A full 70 percent of Americans get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes,” Mr. Ryan said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, according to The New Republic.
Mr. Romney’s figure of 47 percent may come from the Tax Policy Center, which found that 46.4 percent of households paid no federal income tax in 2011. But most households did pay payroll taxes. Of the 18.1 percent of households that paid neither income taxes nor payroll taxes, the center
found that more than half were elderly and more than a third were not elderly but had incomes under $20,000. Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the center, wrote in a blog post last summer that about half of those were off the rolls
because they had low incomes.