September 19th, 2012
12:56 PM ET

Romney's remarks huge mistake or plain truth?

David A. Rice feels like Mitt Romney wrote him off.

The 61-year-old has always been a values-based voter, generally votes Republican and could be a key vote in the swing state of Florida. But he's also among the 47% of Americans that Mitt Romney said don't pay income tax and rely on government support.

"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in a clip from a secretly filmed private donor meeting in May, which was first posted on Monday afternoon. "There are 47% who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."

Romney's '47%' – Washington's tax-break obsession to blame

Rice says he is working part-time and doesn't pay taxes because he can't find a good job. And the fact that Romney wrote him off in those comments is frustrating.

"I am insulted. I support you and you just wrote me off with the 47% who pay no taxes. In that group are those who cry every time they use food stamps; people who would trade them in a minute for a real job. In that group are Christians who shudder at the thought of voting for abortion and gay rights," he wrote in an iReport. "You have strengths that appeal to the demographic you just wrote off ... use it! In the middle of rich supporters you cannot afford to write off a huge group with a careless word."

The 61-year-old said that he has been forced once or twice to take food stamps - and unlike what Romney contends in his comments - he maintains it was not something he was proud of or hopes to ever have to do again.

"It really hurt me," the iReporter told CNN. "It was not something that I wanted to do, I did it because I didn't have a job."

Rice says he didn't think it was right for Romney to lump every low-income person into the same group.

"Not everyone who takes food stamps is a food stamps junkie," Rice told CNN. "There are people who think the government owes them a living and that the government ought to take care of them and be their momma and daddy all their life. That doesn't apply to everyone."

It all left Rice a bit uneasy.

Which leads to the big questions swirling around the Romney campaign: How much damage will Romney's comments do to his chances for winning the election? Were his comments a big enough gaffe, combined with previous missteps, to really dent his campaign? Were his comments just the brutal truth others don't want to hear? Will it sway the votes of Republicans, independents or the undecided?

Rice says he'll still be voting for Romney because of the candidate's social views. But he knows it may not be the same for others.

"I think it was a mistake on his part because he insulted a lot of people who he needs to vote for him," he said.

CNN asked our readers on Facebook what they thought about the remarks and more than 71% said Romney was wrong and should apologize. Twenty-four percent of readers who answered our unscientific poll said he was right, and it was something someone needed to say. Just about 4.5% felt that Romney was right but shouldn't have phrased the remarks the way he did.

Nevin Sanli, from Los Angeles, California, said he is in the 47% and Romney's recent remarks, as well as other gaffes, have sealed his decision to vote for Obama.

"I never took a penny in help or government assistance money or otherwise. I own two businesses, and all I have been doing, along with my business partners, is creating jobs. I am not a victim," Sanli said in response to the CNN poll on Facebook. "I worked hard and built it all from scratch and I pay a lot of taxes. I am not as rich as Romney, but I sure pay a much bigger percentage of my income in taxes than he does. I find his remarks to be un-American, shocking and insulting."

And definitely unbecoming a president, he added.

"Elitism, silver-spoon arrogance and outright divisive statements, with undertones of racism, cannot be attributes of an American president," Sanli wrote.

For his part, Romney has stood behind the comments from the secretly recorded video. They were an honest reflection of his campaign's message, he said.

"This is a message I'm carrying day in and day out and will carry over the coming months," Romney said on Fox News. "This is a decision about the course of America, where we're going to head. We've seen the president's policies play out over the last four years."

Kristopher Daughtrey agreed with those tough words and took them to show that Romney won't shy away from the truth and will stick to his convictions.

"I applaud Romney for his remarks. He's the only one willing to not sugarcoat it. I'm not a huge supporter of either party, but at least Romney has the guts to speak out frankly about it, instead of Obama, Congress, and other politicians trying to justify their actions constantly or running away with their tail between their legs," Daughtrey said. "If you're going to be president then you need to have the backbone to walk the walk and not just talk about it."

Jason Asselin, an iReporter from Iron Mountain, Michigan, is an independent who says that he generally votes for the best candidate, despite their affiliation, though he likes the ideas and stances of the tea party.

While Asselin is normally a critic of Obama, he said Romney's comments really angered him because he doesn't pay taxes, but it isn't because he doesn't want to.

"I try paying taxes each year and every year they say we don't make enough, it isn't that I don't want to pay my taxes - they won't take them," he says. "Our government put rules and regulations in place for the lower class of people. It isn't our fault for falling under that. I don't like being called the 47%, I'd like to be called American."

Asselin said he is frustrated that Romney makes assumptions about how he will vote. And he is not alone.

Jeff Zicker, 21, might have been a candidate for the 47% category. He's college-aged, but left college because he landed a job performing with a national Broadway tour. He worked two jobs all through college, and these days he pays all his taxes, which puts him in the 53% category.

“For (Romney) to say his plan only appeals to those who don’t victimize themselves just further proves how out of touch he is with the rest of the American public,” he said.

Zicker is a moderate Democrat who will be voting for Obama this fall.

“I honestly believe that somebody that would say that a large of a portion of Americans, that this group victimizes themselves and tries to appeal to voters in that way, I don’t think that shows that they would be fit in any way to be president," he said.

But others say that Romney is merely beginning a dialogue that many Americans refuse to have. Steven Evans said that he thinks the discussion is an important one as the country moves forward.

"It is time to start a national dialogue on whether we are creating a major dependency class," he said on Facebook. "I am glad to see him tell the truth. Let's decide whether we are going the way of Greece or the traditional USA."

But some believe that having that conversation with only half of the country is problematic.

“It’s not in touch with what America’s values are and what we should be in a country," Zicker said of Romney's comments. "At the end of the day, we’re all connected. What I do affects you economically and socially. We shouldn’t see it as an one-for-all system.”

soundoff (4,198 Responses)
  1. funny thing

    Funny thing just happened, i was copying a huge file on my computer and it stopped in the middle, right when 47% was left. Damn laizy corrupted sectors. But not to worrie, it was the worse half of the file.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. iminim

    Given the population dynamics of the 47% of people who don't pay federal income tax (the majority are either low income workers, the elderly, or those already paying payroll taxes) exactly how does Mr Romney propose we change this? Does he think we should require federal tax payment from low income workers even if it puts them at risk for homelessness or hunger? Does he think the elderly who paid into social security for years should be taxed on those benefits or that Medicare benefits should taxed? Is he suggesting that we lower the minimum income threshold below which you don't have to pay federal income tax? He has identified the "47%" as a campaign issue, so what does he suggest we do about it beyond writing that 47% off as potential Romney voters?

    September 20, 2012 at 5:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Li

      Of course, he thinks that those you mention should pay more income tax. After all, he's planning to cut taxes for his wealthy friends, and the money has to come from SOMEwhere....

      September 20, 2012 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. Brhino

    Why don't we elect a president who can create the economic conditions that will promote job growth, and shrink the 47 percent that everyone is so ashamed of; rather than watch it grow to 57 percent by this time next year?

    September 20, 2012 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Li

      We could, but for some reason, the majority of voters have been duped into believing that the President can only be a Democrat or a Republican.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
    • michiganandy

      If you mean Romney, remember how Einstein defined insanity; trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Romney would continue with the Bush trickle down policies that created a mess so large, it would take 2-3 Clinton terms to even get back to where we were before Bush did insane things like cut taxes during the longestand costliest war in American history. More and more it looks like Obama is doing a fine job, especially considering fixing this economy involves such complexities not seen since the Hoover Repubs sank the economy with their style of trickle down economics. So stop the insanity, please, and vote for Obama!

      September 20, 2012 at 5:55 am | Report abuse |
    • screw em, let's go home

      I think what Romney was saying is that 47% of people (about half the nation) feels as though have NO ACCOUNTABILITY & that no matter what right or wrong choices they themselves make, the government will be there to give them what they believe is rightfully theirs,
      We were guaranteed the "Pursuit of Happiness", not happiness. What that means is you have the right to do whatever it is that will, in the end, make you happy. Not blow your life away & then expect others to pick up for your bad decisions.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Recognize the fact that everyone that uses electricity, city water, any form of infrastucture (bridges, highways, etc), eats most forms of cereal, drives a vehicle powered by petroleum, are on Social Security, Medicare, et al, is doing so at the largess of the government. WE'RE ALL TAKING HANDOUTS FROM THE FED. I'd bet a plugged nickel that even the 1% are making use of federal assistance, in light of the above. It's not just Welfare and Food Stamps, folks. I'll go even further to suggest that Mittens gets more help from the fed than he realizes and yet he continues to be devisive in his comments. One other thing, Mittens, the POTUS is basically a figurehead ... you can promise things until the cows come home but without cooperation from Congress, your promises are just hot air.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jason

    First of all we are not in a depression because of Obama or social programs. Two wars, an unregulated wallstreet, and poor choices by the banking industry have the majority of the blame. Second people on both sides of the isle have to take responsability for the fruad,corruption, and materialisim in the economy such as doctors and lawyers milking the system, poor milking the system, congressmen and women bending to special interests, big business sending jobs overseas and hiding money in offshore accounts. Vote for who ever you want but as an independant and moderate I intend to vote for a president that takes a rational approach to solving our problems without compromising everything that our country was founded on including "social programs".

    September 20, 2012 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. Fifty Three Percenter

    Mark McKinnon, a campaign strategist for John McCain in 2008, wrote on the Daily Beast website yesterday that it "was a moment that certainly revealed something about him. But not what I was hoping for. Just the opposite. It reveals a deeply cynical man, who sees the country as completely divided, as two completely different sets of people, and who would likely govern in a way that would only further divide us."

    September 20, 2012 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
    • WeDon'tMatter

      Romney already said that he wanted a two tiered society back in the beginning of the election with his "Merit" system. Those with "merit"(money) and those without merit. He wants the a Romney society and a society to shine his shoes.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. SwissWarrior

    This election is very simple: Workers against Welfare Recipients – Christians against Atheists – Free People against Socialists Romney is Right

    September 20, 2012 at 6:00 am | Report abuse |
    • whitman30

      Well, Romney isn't a Christian- that was your first mistake in the hypothesis. He is a Mormon, and they do not believe Jesus was the Messiah; they believe they will eventually become a god.

      September 20, 2012 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
    • doug

      you just reinforced why what Romney said is appalling. There is so much to what you just said that not only is false, but is incredibly right-win extremism....but you knew that, didn't you.

      September 20, 2012 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Mjansen

      Mormons are Christians- in response to whitman 30

      September 20, 2012 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
    • screw em, let's go home

      Romney is 100% right. And all those who are offended: THE TRUtH HURTS!

      September 20, 2012 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
    • snowdogg

      Feeling especially divisive this morning? The world has never been as black and white as you mindset.

      September 20, 2012 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      To "let's go home" ...
      While there may be people that milk the system, the VAST majority of the 47% that Mittens refers to either don't make enough to have to pay taxes (maybe because their job was outsourced) or are disabled or one of so many other reasons. I've been busting my hump for over 40 years and got a refund last year. Why? Ask Congress, they made the rules and setup the deductions. You want to resolve the issue up front? (1) Go to a flat 10% tax rate for everyone making more than the poverty level; (2) if the money is made in the US, it stays in the US (no offshore accounts); (3) no deductions, no tax loopholes, no tax breaks; (4) Means test Welfare (if you can work, you WILL work)

      September 20, 2012 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. Cyrious

    Mormons love money..especially if it comes from those other non- believers..

    September 20, 2012 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
    • LM

      To be quite honest, I'm surprised at all the support Romney has, considering his faith considers "Bleeding the Beast" a core fundamental of their belief system. I'm not saying that I think voting for people that believe in talking snakes and water being turned into wine are any saner. HOWEVER, Mormons have the highest ratio of members/welfare of any major religion out there. Google "Bleeding the Beast" and fact check yourselves folks.

      Ultimately, this election cycle boils down to poor choice vs scary choice. Oh what has this world come too....

      September 20, 2012 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. RinosRwinos

    Who is promoting class warfare now? Obama promises to represent those that vote for him or those that vote againist him. He plans on representing 100%. Rmoney has already written off 47%. Are those 47% truely dependant on government and want government to take care of all of their needs? I find that extremely dishonest. Most people want to work and be independant given the opportunity. The percentage of people that want to live off the public dole is much smaller. If you consider people that live on Social Security or have had to rely on Unemployment as freeloaders then you don't understand what a safety net is. Lord help you should you ever need a helping hand.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. rexdogcanadien

    So Mr Romney 47% of Americans are to be blamed for their inability to evade paying taxes. Do you really believe so? Sir, who are you and what are you really about. Your comment reminds me of a verse now deleted from the song, "All things bright and beautiful All creatures great and small. The rich man in his castle. The poor man at his gate. God made them high and lowly. He ordered their estate". Is this a tenet of you faith?

    September 20, 2012 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
  10. Billy Davis

    Romney dismisses 47% like his church dismissed blacks...

    September 20, 2012 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. MaryM

    This is really sad that a candidate for POTUS would discount 47% of Americans. Mitt is not presidential material

    September 20, 2012 at 7:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. John

    What you people don't understand Is ,that 47% are not all Democrats they are half Republican. And I bet you that half that 47% are Millionaire and Billionaire that are not paying any taxes. So you can't just blame It on low Income people. And these people It may come down to eating or not. But what the excuse for the Rich that not paying the taxes they really should be,or the Money the are hiding In oversea bank ,like Mitt Romney doing In the Cayman Islands. He even Flies the Cayman Islands Flag on his Yacht. And that Is so he don't have to pay any taxes on the Yacht. Is Mitt Romney much not be to Proud to be American ,because he doesn't Flies the American Flag on his Yacht. There Is no way this man should be President of this Country.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. Don

    The 47% figure is probably off the mark; the rest is fact. The greatest President the Democrats every elected, Franklin Roosevelt, got this country out of the Great Depression, largely, by giving people jobs. He made unproductive people productive and even if they had to travel thousands of miles for these jobs, he gave them an opportunity to support their families again, and returned their pride. The worst President the Democrats ever elected, Lyndon Johnson, took away the jobs, and just paid them to be unemployed. While keeping the lights on, it robbed them of their pride and their dignity. When even my sister-in-law with Downs syndrome can be a productive member of society with the government's help, so can nearly everyone who's unemployed today. Instead, the Democrats want to keep Americans dependent on the Government to the point they feel deprived if we take away their dole. Instead of the land our forefather created, we've created a socialist government with the members of society dependent on the State for their subsistence. As Roosevelt would have told us, take away the dole and give them jobs.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Actually, the New Deal was a start but it was the massive industrial buildup to support WW2 that finally dug this country out of the Depression. Just sayin' ...

      September 20, 2012 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. snowdogg

    Keep in mind that the "truth" is relative to your perspective. Romney's remarks smack of pandering to a select group and being dismissive of those not in on his "truth"... ergo it is just his opinion.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. rickinmo

    This is nothing new. Republicans just don't get it. They actually believe they are being taken advantage of because they pay taxes and others don't. They fail to realize why the 47^ don't pay federal income tax and the fact that the people in the 47% who are working are still paying Social Security Tax and Medicare Tax.

    Before retiring I worked with hundreds of surgeons. Most of them, Republicans, thought the Social Security system should be cut. After all, they maxed out their very generous 401K plans every year and prepared for their own retirement. Others should do the same. What I brought to their attention on numerous occasions was the fact that 50% of the population was making less than $30K per year. That's less than what most of the surgeons were putting into their 401K's. These working people were supporting families, driving cars, paying mortgages or rent, paying all of or a portion of their health care, contributing to their kids education. paying Social Security and Medicare Taxes, Buying food, auto repairs and all of the other things we need to live in our modern society. How much money could they possibly have left over to contribute to a 401K Plan? They fail to realize the 47% are hard working people. They do some of the most physically demanding jobs. It's not that their numbers are wrong; Republicans just don't get it. They look at their situation and how well they're doing and fail to realize most people don't have anything left after the bills are paid to contribute to a 401K. They have to take fuel cost into account when they look for a car. They can't afford steak. They buy chuck roast and make two meals out of it. These hard working people would love to be in the income brackets that pay taxes.

    Unlike corporations and millionaires who don't pay taxes, the 47% don't have the means, That's why they don't pay.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
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