"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 ...."These are people who pay no income tax."
"My job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." - Mitt Romney
These words, uttered by one Willard Mitt Romney to a small, intimate crowd of donors earlier this year, could be Romney's presidential aspirations death nail. Of course, anything can happen, and Romney is never out of the race until the day it's over, but this certainly isn't good for his campaign. The fallout has already begun, with numerous outlets already picking apart the factual innacuracies of Romney's statements.
But, there's another element here beyond just the rather fragile factual ground that Romney's comments stand on. Mitt Romney has spent a large part of his campaign trying to persuade America that he's 'in touch' with the average American. The entire GOP convention showcased speaker after speaking trying to appeal to working poor Americans. Ann Romney was particularly pointed in this direction with her speech at the convention, talking in detail about she and Mitt's financial "struggles". It's been a consistent theme for Romney - especially since he said he "wasn't concerned with the very poor" after a primary win.
Whatever progress Mitt may have made on this front is surely to have been erased when he was exposed for having demonstrated the unmitigated audacity to claim people who don't qualify to pay income taxes can't be convinced to "take personal responsibility" and "don't care about their lives". It's one thing to completely whiff on the facts of a given statistic - Mitt's shown an unmatched propensity for that skill - but it's an entirely different thing to make such brazen value judgements about people.
Unfortunately for Romney, such words likely solidify the notion that he's too far removed from the average, everyday struggles of the American electorate. And further, that Mitt's a smug rich guy who's so far out of touch that he's not even aware there's such a thing as out of touch. As the two fact checking articles I linked earlier point out, Romney didn't just attack "Obama's base" here - he attacked elderly people, he attacked working poor individuals, he attacked students, he attacked the middle class, and he even attacked some really wealthy individuals to boot.
The negative impact is double for Romney, because he's now just put front and center the question about whether or not he himself paid income taxes throughout the 2000s. Romney's team has been very coy in their response to that allegation; they chose to address it, but they didn't choose to deny it. They've routinely danced around the issue by claiming Romney's "paid taxes" every year, but they haven't specified "income taxes". Now that Romney's placed a focus on those who don't pay income taxes, it's going to be hard for him to maneuver this in any direction without the already glaring eye sore that is his own federal income tax mystery becoming even more glaring.
At this point, the strategy for President Obama is simple: get out of Mitt's way and let him do what he does. That strategy has work well up to this point, but it's about to take on a whole new level of effective.