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. Curt_in_Florida

    i am a independent and was leaning far towards the Romney camp, now as I continue to ponder Mr. Romney's remarks the more angry I become. I am 41, have two children and work 2 jobs in order to support my family. I have at times had to use food stamps other wise my children very well could have gone hungry. I have paid into the system for 26 plus years, when I needed a little assistance I used it. Isn't they why the programs are in place. I normally would not waste my vote for a candidate, such as a tea party or green party, because I think it just takes a vote away from one or the other primary candidates. I was pretty much set on voting for Mr. Romney but now I am reconsidering that decision as I feel his comments were very narrow minded, presumptuous, and for lack of a better term, very un-presidential. This country need legislative term limits for members of congress and we need 4 viable parties before anything can ever be done. I am certain that Obama and Romney are not the best we as Americans have to offer, it's just the power elite place them in front of us with no alternative. Good luck America, we need it.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CAPT VT

    There appears to be a lot of misconception on who pays taxes and how much and who doesn't. For example on NPR a so-called tax expert they were interviewing kept stating the military doesn't pay taxes. Well I just finished 28 years in the Navy and I most certainly did pay taxes on my military pay. My housing allowance was not taxed but that was a very small portion of my compensation. And yet because she was an "expert" now everyone is going to believe that military members don't pay taxes. If we are going to have a dialogue on this then we need to have solid definitions on who pays taxes, what are the income limits, what is the difference between having income tax withheld and paying in April (if you have tax withheld and you get money back you still paid taxes), etc. Taxes are very complicated and yet our politicians keeping making false statements as if they are experts. Very sad.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. MikeInDenver

    Sherry. He's not slamming your for not paying taxes. He's indicating to his wealthy donors that he expects most people that live off the government to vote Democratic. Which they will. He just had his percentage wrong. But it was a good sell to his donors.

    Bottom line – if you rely on the government you best just off yourself soon. They won't have any money to pay benefits in the future anyway whether you elect Romney or Obama. If you elect Obama for another wasted 4 years, this country will die sooner, that's all. So ya'll have fun!!

    September 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tom

    To elect Mitt Romney to the office of President of the United States would be a crime against humanity.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      I don't think you understand the term "crime against humanity".

      September 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BobKaram

    Watching and reading CNN you'd think Mitt Romney has completely lost it. Are we really to believe that there isn't at least some truth to what this man said? Okay, maybe it's not 47%, but so what? It seems that an alarmingly increasing number of people in our country are seeking AND GETTING a free ride while the liberal media, almost angrily, urge them on. Has all sense of media responsibility and open-mindedness completly disappeared?

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. snowdogg

    Romney's tone was contemptuous and smacked of telling the group what they expected to hear – wow, that is so unusual!

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. justmeanddog

    I don’t know how politicians can bear to look at themselves in the mirror. I wonder if they actually see two people in there. One having that perpetual phony smile while glad-handling and promising the moon and the other gritting their teeth and just trying to stifle what they really want to say, until after the election. I guess if you are born schizophrenic you are a natural born Political animal. To me they all appear to be a bunch of narcissistic, power hungry, holier-than-thou individuals who forgot what the “truth” looked like about the same time they were weaned, but then again if they all told the truth nobody would vote for them and the fairy-tale world they promise to deliver. So I guess we get what we deserve in the end.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. HuPhartNgau

    I believe it was the matter-of-fact tenor in his address that was so revealing. In the beginning of his campaign, there was innuendo that he was detached from the average American – having never spent a day in his life as one. Now, from his own mouth, we find that he believes that half the adult population is waiting with their hands out, for big brother to feed them. Overwhelmingly, MOST Americans pay income tax; not just 53%. We may not write the big check on April 14th, but we certainly see the payroll deductions every month. Mitt, born into wealth and privilege, just never saw that side of it. I now doubt that he is capable of understanding the American condition, much less empathizing with it.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. us_1776

    Romney = NONE and DONE !!


    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DC

    What I find funny is you don't hear about many politicians going broke like major sports figures, etc. but for some reason all those politicians can sure as hell run this countries finances straight into the crapper.

    Should we be hiring the politicians financial advisors to office instead?

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chicago Jim

    It is all about responsibility. Perhaps seeing people buy their groceries at a convience store using food stamps (link cards) drives him crazy like me. I live in the burbs so there are plent of grocery stores where you can get more bang for your buck. So either people are on food stamps that shouldn't be or we provide too much (my guess is that its the former).

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. steve

    Nevin Sanli has been a significant Democratic campaign contributor for many years, so his opinion about this election was formed a long time ago–he is not the person to interview for this piece.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hididdlediddle

    100 % correct is Romney. 4 boys(white, in their 20's) in my neighborhood are on S.S, disability and they will not accept any kind of work offer handed to them. They are bums and there are millions more of all races like them. You stupid liberals should love your country more than you do and you will all go down with the welfare frauds that you defend.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Barry G.

    Public assistance should never be a way for one's entire life, but for many it is.

    I plan to vote for Obama, but I do wish this would be addressed, along with a host of other problems, like teen pregnancy rates in the US, which rival that of some developing countries.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • small business owner

      Many people receiving public assistance, do not want to change and have made it their way of life. Obama is making it easier for them to live their dream. 4 more years and maybe we can get it to 70%???

      September 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bea Oates

    By now Mitt Romney should just throw in the towel, it is over for him! He showed his true colors to the American people! Smob big time! We do not need that in the White House! You can do that in your own private life, since you also made sure your five sons never had anything to do with the military.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SuperDave

      Yes we do. Someone who is finally honest and help stop the ever growing welfare nation we are becoming.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • CatSh

      Dave – most of these 47% work. They are just not making enough to live on. The only way to fix that is to increase wages – something the Republicans are deadset against.
      And don't say get a better job – we ALL can't be investment bankers – someone has to actually WORK.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • small business owner

      CatSH: and don't we get to thank Obama for all these great jobs he has created. He has been in office for 4 years. Where are the good jobs. Lose 1 $30.00 an hour job, but he created 3 minimum wage jobs. Good job!

      September 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
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