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. Lynda

    Mr. Rice,

    I don't think Mr. Romney was talking about you. You are amoung those who NEED assistance right now and appreciate that you can get some help.

    Mr. Romney was talking about those who think they seserve food, clothing, and housing no matter that they could work and choose not to.

    For you my friend I send positive thoughts tht you will find the better situation that you are searshing for soon!

    September 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ken

      I agree 100% with you Lynda.. Mr Rice you have it all wrong. It is those (and you know who you are) that pretty much is handed everything and do little to earn it and HAVE the ability to do so is who this all refers to. Not the DISABLE, not the ones whe are MENTALLY unfit. It is the lazy couch potatoes. Those who are capable and do not want too. You all know where we are coming from you just twist the facts around to make it sound wrong. Enough of being Politically correct.. We need to wake the hell up before it is too late.. We are we over 80% there now and we don't wake up... Then it will be all over. Life as we know it will be gone and unreachable

      September 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      So what percentage of the population lives off the government?

      September 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • mcskadittle

      truth or not, its not very smart politics to make fun of the people whose vote you need. this makes his groveling to the Latino community really hard

      September 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suze

      About 5% live off the government completely. Romney is out of touch with reality, and his arrogance will cost him the election.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MCFx

    First of all the quote was "47% of voters" N0T "47% of Americans" as CNN is peddling. So, I say:
    Truth: 47% of votes who will vote for Obama don't care what Romney has to say.
    Truth: 46.4% of AMERICANS don't pay income taxes.
    Myth: Payroll taxes are NOT income taxes. You get that BACK in Social Security and Medicare even if you paid into it LESS than you put in.

    September 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. quadrophenia1

    Like it or not, Romney's comment appeals to a new breed of Post-Reagan, Uber-Libertarian crowd that can be found everywhere today. I wish I had a dollar for every time during the last few years someone has said to me: ""I'm sick and tired of footing the bill for all the low-life's and lazy bums that are surrounding me"". Like it or not, there's a lot of Americans today that feel that way.

    September 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. DontThinkSo

    It amuses me to no end how many people are still debating whether Obama was born in the U.S. Get over it and stick to the real issues (economy, austerity, foreign policy,...etc).

    September 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      DONTTHINKSO is right, stick to the issues, gas prices are near or over $4, our dollar isn't worth what it was 4 years ago and most of the rest of the world hates us. I guess that pretty much covers the issues of the economy, austerity and foreign policy.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Eric Allen

    Even though it was "...inelegantly stated...", the bigger problem with Romney's words seems to be people hearing what their preconceived notions about him allow them to hear.

    Romney didn't take to task people who don't pay taxes since they don't make enough to reach that level (including deductions). His comment related to those who don't pay taxes and EXPECT the government to provide with additional pay-outs like food stamps, etc.

    There are plenty of people in this country who work hard, labor 6 or 7 days a week to make ends meet for their family, get every dime back each year due to pay level and deductions and still don't feel comfortable taking government hand-outs, support, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it. They're not the ones who Romney refers to as "...feeling they're victims...".

    People need to pay attention to what these politicians say and how they act over the long term. Let their actions bear out what they really think.Words, actions,and associations. Observe who and what these guys say, do , and who they big in as their close circle of friends and you'll get a much better feel for who they are, not what some "gotcha" press moment and spin puts out there.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Obama Mama

      Nope he said those that do not pay income taxes. You are wrong.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    Mr Sanli above says in one sentence that he is one of the 47% yet in another sentence says he pays a lot in taxes. If the 47% that Romney spoke of are non-taxpayers then how can someone who pays a lot in taxes be among the 47%. That is more confusing than the fact that Romney, in the middle of a presidential race, said something that can be construed as insulting to certain voters.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amazed

      The problem with Romney's comment is that it appears he's stating that everyone who has already decided to vote for Obama is part of the 47%. Meaning everyone who decided to vote for Obama are lazy moochers. Whether that was the intent or not could be debated. However, he's an idiot for making the comment.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jfc1

    Quite directly, it boils down to do you want a president who is an ass or do you want one who isn't.

    And trust me a whole lot of people are going to vote against Romney on that basis alone.

    And the fact is that he hasn't made a positive case for voting for him. Unless you believe that "I'm not Obama" is "a positive case for voting for him". But 'I will cut taxes and I am pro-business"...sorry but that's not going to cut it in 2012. Obama has done everything that he can do over the past 4 years despite all the Republican opposition and you know who has gotten rich behind his efforts? Rich White Republicans.

    It's just obvious that whatever the government does to improve the economy?

    Rich White Republicans are going to get 2/3rds of the benefits. If not more.
    So you're talking about the 1% which is already well-off just getting even richer all while complaining about Obama and the Democrats ruining the economy.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Obama Mama

      The ah ha moment has not hit the republicans yet.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. trollol

    'Christians who shudder at the thought of voting for abortion and gay rights'? Is that why that stupid voter supports republicans in the first place? If it wasn't, why bring it up? I just want to smack the hell out of him for being such a tool.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. grinch031

    Surely there are people who abuse government assistance programs. But Romney just wrote off genuine hard-working Americans who are having hard times and using the assistance programs the way they were designed to be used. This just solidified what I already knew about Romney, that he is completely out of touch with Americans and should not be elected. This seals his fate.

    Oh and I'm registered republican by the way.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. truth1063

    The fact that this is even a story shows how left leaning the media is. The fact that Obama's video of him saying he supports socilalist redistribution of wealth gets half the coverage – PROVES IT. THE FACT – 47% of people DON'T pay federal income taxes. They overwhelmingly support Democrats. BFD.....wish there was more reporting on the issues and less manufacturing of BS stories.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Obama Mama

      Not what he said, nice try though. I guess Romney's redistribution of middle class money by taking our deductions and giving the wealthy more is okay. Do you see what is wrong with that picture? Will you have an ah ha, or just not ever get it?

      September 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suze

      Do you not GET that the states recieving most of the "handouts" are RED STATES? Do you not get what RED STATE means> It means, "truth 1063", that they vote Republican. How can you keep missing that?

      September 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. netjim

    Here's the DUMBEST statement of all: "Romney is just wrong for saying that! I'm on food stamps not because I want to, but because I can't find a job!" REALLY? AND WHOSE FAULT IS THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please dear God give me a break from the idiocy!

    September 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Antonio

      And yet you're on CNN in the middle of the day wasting your time commenting on an article when you could be looking for a job. Hmmm..........

      September 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      And Antonio you are on here commenting on someone who should get off the internet and get a job? hmmmmmmm

      September 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suze

      Antonio, he was quoting the ARTICLE. Read his post again, won't you? Hmmmm.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. theorycraft

    No representation without taxation!

    September 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Kenneth Booth

    I cannot believe this is an issue. Romney has no idea how many of his own voters are getting Government assistance? I live in Oklahoma and every hillbilly without job in this state votes republican. One reason is they have been told the Dem's will take their guns, and other reasons are from religion to the fact Obama is black.
    I was in line at the store the other day and someone commented about the gas prices. A man in line said we have Obama to thank for that, and he will be glad when a Republican gets back in office. That same man started to checkout, then and ask the cashier if he could put dog food on food stamps. Romney has no idea, and for these Okies, you just can't fix stupid.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Meka

      Kenneth, unfortunately there is a high percentage of American's whom think in this manner!

      September 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • ~~~

      yup. i think you understand it.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • handshake

      It is an issue to me for just the reason you stated. Romney insults those that vote for him when he calls them victims and that they do not take persnal responsibility for their lives. How insulting to suggest they make up only an Obama voting block.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      That street goes both ways. How many seniors vote democrat every election because they are led to believe by democrats that republicans are going to take away their Medicare and Social Security?

      September 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laurie

      Love it, Kenneth! You hit the nail on the head. Guess Republicans are so perfect that they can officially cast the first stone.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • 90210

      Steve, you mean te same edicare and Social Security that THEY'VE ALREADY PAID INTO?

      September 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Humanist11

    There is a percentage of Americans that are happy to be dependent on the federal government, but I don't think it is the entire 47% who don't pay taxes. I want a social welfare system that helps those who CAN'T take care of themselves and those that need a little help to get back on their feet. Folks who make a living off taxpayer funded government aid are making all the good people that need it look bad. A revised welfare system that kicks the free-loaders to the curb is what we need. The democratic party is all too happy to keep the free-loaders on the government teat because those are the guaranteed votes every election. The republicans are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water in their zeal to cut out the free-loaders. I don't have the solution. I just see the problem clearly.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • JAnGA

      Well said!

      September 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Q

      many many years ago, that used to be republican. Now you are a marxist.....Party On

      September 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Is your assumption that the democratic party welcomes the free-loaders because they vote for democrats supported by facts? I'm guessing that the small percentage of free-loaders are too busy free-loading to vote for either democrats or republicans.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • grnfrg

      So you know how all 'free-loaders' vote? Interesting.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Antonio

    Fact:
    The top 1% of our population pays 36.7% of all income taxes
    The top 5% of our population pays 58.7% of all income taxes
    The top 10% of our population pays 70.5% of all income taxes
    The bottom half of our population pays 2.25% of all income taxes

    How much more should they have to pay before it's considered "fair"? Also, Obama say the President has to look out for all Americans, well he should follow his own advice, because his criticizm of Small Business Owners, the people who make more money, and Republicans in general show he's not looking out for everyone either. That comment goes both ways.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • JoJo

      Your analysis ignores economic inequality and that many people who pay no taxes have no money to pay taxes or anything else, and sophisticated tax evaders like Romney. When the Republican chickenhawks are as cost cutting with milatary spending for unnecessary war as they are with the money I've paid into Social Security, I'll listen to them.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • handshake

      How much more should they pay? At least 5% more with the elimination of the Bush tax cuts.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karrie123

      You need to add to your stats that 4,000 millionaires in this country paid no federal income tax, so they're also in that 47%. The top 400 earned as much as the bottom 150 million.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Antonio

      I'm not suggesting they anyone pay more or less, I just want to know what is considered "fair" by Obama? The fact is the upper 10% is what supports our economy. Like it or not, their money is what pays the bills for our government. If we raise their taxes too much, or put too much of the burden on them and their businesses, they'll pack up and go to another country. Then after that money is gone, our economy will really be in trouble. I can see from a person who is not in the upper income bracket, as I am myself, but I also know who pays the bills, and like it or not our country needs these people. Obama is asking the upper class to pay "a little more", when they already contribute a substantial amount. At some point they will all say enough is enough and take their money elsewhere.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Antonio

      Maybe instead of expanding government, extending the lengh people can collect unemployment, spending outstanding amounts of money on a faulty system like Obamacare, and other outrageous things Obama is spending our tax dollars on, he reduce spending, reduce government, and that could result in a reduction of taxes for everyone, therefore keeping people happier. Instead, he wants to spend more and more money, and his philosophy is "hey, we'll just get the rich people to pay for it". Well, that will not work. We're already seeing jobs and companies moving overseas, and the more their taxes are increased, the more their do it, resulting in further unemployment and more money taken from our economy.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sick & Tired

      I have a hard time feeling sorry for people whose annual tax bill is higher than 5-years' worth of my household income. OF COURSE their taxes are going to be a larger piece of the pie BECAUSE THEY MAKE SIGNIFICANTLY MORE!! You collect some facts about how the 1%ers' tax is a higher percentage of their income than mine, and then I'll worry about "fair".

      September 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
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