In a recent fundraiser, Mitt Romney served the following red meat to the party faithful:
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.
The surreptitiously recorded video was unveiled at the website of the far-left magazine, Mother Jones.
The mainstream media has predictably pounced on these comments. Many mainstream, moderate conservatives are worried that Romney blew it, with David Brooks of the New York Times comparing him to Thurston Howell III. I believe they are on to something. It is something that Thurston Howell III might say. And it won’t play well in many blue collar neighbourhoods that Romney needs to win.
But here’s the thing, Romney shouldn’t take it back. If he does, all it will do is to make him look weak… and also a liar. This is partly because his statement – that the bottom 47% of American taxpayers don’t pay income tax - is true, as the Wall Street Journal helpfully pointed out. But also because his reputation as a flip-flopper – over Romneycare – was only recently overcome, and after much effort on his part.
But the most important reason is that this fact goes to the core message that Mitt Romney needs to get across in order to win: that work and savings are the key to prosperity, that everybody has to pull his own weight, that government handouts create perverse incentives, that demonizing job creators is un-American and that when government picks winners and losers, everybody loses. You simply cannot get this message across while denying the truth that the bottom 47% of Americans don’t pay income tax.
One way to move forward, while promoting this message, is to shine a light on President Obama’s principles and how his deepest beliefs deviate from the ideals of equality of opportunity, liberty and personal responsibility. This recording of Obama saying, “I actually believe in redistribution,” which appeared on drudgereport.com is a good start. I would be a good sign if it was Romney’s campaign that got that link up on Drudge.
Always remember: apologizing doesn’t win votes, and neither does repudiating your core message; but attacking your enemy does help.
UPDATE: Dick Morris, Bill Clinton's former rainmaker, agrees with me on this point.