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Mitt Romney Recorded Telling Wealthy GOP Donors That 47% of Americans Are Freeloaders

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Mitt Romney was forced into damage-control mode Monday over a video revealing he told wealthy GOP donors that 47% of Americans are government freeloaders — and that he’d have a better shot at being President if he were Mexican.

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the President no matter what,” Romney said in a strikingly candid chat at a closed-door cash grab in May.

“All right, there are 47% 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.”

Romney was attempting to argue that his campaign strategy must be to focus on swaying “the 5 to 10% in the center that are independents,” but his words prompted the Obama camp to accuse him of being opposed to half the electorate.

“The President starts off with 48, 49 (percent), he starts with a huge number,” Romney continued in his pitch to fund-raisers at the Boca Raton, Fla., pad of hedge-funder Marc Leder.

“These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. . . .

“And so 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 potentially damaging video clip had been kicking around YouTube for months, but the campaign firestorm erupted after the magazine Mother Jones posted it on its website Monday. The video is just 67 seconds long, but Romney managed to make a second foot-in-mouth statement.

He reminded the audience that his father was born in Mexico — and then offered tongue-in-cheek political analysis that certainly won’t help him court the Latino vote.

“And had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this,” the candidate said, referring to the presidential race, and getting a big laugh from the crowd. “But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. . . . I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”

The video generated tremendous negative buzz for Romney on a day when his camp was already buffeted by a Politico report about finger-pointing within the campaign — the second-guessing mostly being aimed at top adviser Stuart Stevens, as the campaign continues to sputter following a bounce-less convention.

Romney, in California Monday for another fund-raiser, hastily organized a news conference during which he did not retract his statement.

“It’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I was speaking off the cuff in response to a question,” he said. “Of course I want to help all Americans. All Americans have a bright and prosperous future.”

He stood by the message underlying his dig at the 47%.

“This is ultimately a question about direction for the country,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits, or do you believe instead in a free-enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams?”

Prior to Romney’s attempt to address the controversy, Obama’s campaign blasted the Republican standard-bearer for denigrating almost half the population in a bid to pander to a room full of fat cats. “It’s hard to serve as President for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” said campaign manager Jim Messina.

Romney’s statements in the video contradicted comments he made to CNN during the heat of the GOP primary battle in February; in that television interview Romney said he doesn’t worry about the wealthy but instead will campaign on his concern for “the 90, 95% of Americans who right now are struggling.”

The Mother Jones story included an interesting tie-in to former President Jimmy Carter — his grandson, James Carter 4th, was listed as a researcher on the piece. Carter, who is looking for a full-time gig, pulled the incendiary comments from Internet obscurity by tracking down the YouTube poster and putting Mother Jones in contact with the source.

“I’ve been searching for clips on Republicans for a long time, almost every day. I just do it for fun,” Carter told New York magazine.

The video and its potentially devastating fallout with middle-class voters emerged as Romney’s campaign, dogged by a number of previous missteps, said it needed to alter its approach — to say nothing of quelling dissension in its ranks — to swing momentum in the race.

In another terrible coincidence of political timing for Romney, the video, with his joke about wishing he were Mexican, made news on the very day he addressed the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Republican’s campaign has been heavily targeting Latino small-business owners in battleground states like Florida.

Romney told the group that Obama “wants government to tax more and regulate more because he believes government can do a better job than you can.”

“I believe in you,” Romney said. “I believe you can do a better job than government.”

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