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. amac

    It's an ideal that probably hasn't happened since the presidency of George Washington, but we, the people, always HOPE that whomever sits behind the desk in the Oval Office in the White House is EVERY AMERICAN'S president. Not just SOME Americans' president, but the president of ALL the people, in the sense that he understands and empathizes with them regardless of their individual class or status. Mitt Romney has made it very blatantly clear that he has written off half of we, the people; that they don't matter to him a single bit. Is this the sort of man we want representing the ideal that we call America?

    September 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvesting

      I noticed you did not mention Obama? I remember statements like there is no blue and red only purple, and then saying we won the election. Or will have CSPAN covering it and what happened back room deals and bribes to pass legislation that is not a tax but legally it is? So is Obama a POTUS for EVERYONE.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zella

      Yes, Obama IS concerned with 100% of the US citizens...where has he EVER said that he is writing off 47% of the population? He is 100% the POTUS, not only those who voted for him...sheesh.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TheIrony

    So if Romney wins the presidency–he will be living off of the government, will have government healthcare, and government housing. And his running mate, Paul Ryan, already has those things. Then he says he supports the troops–who have everything (income, healthcare, food, housing) provided by the government, who then become veterans and get VA healthcare and service connected benefits. Ouch, the irony just smacked me in the face.

    Mistake or truth? I'd say misinformed and ignorant. Besides, as the president you represent all americans, not just the ones who voted for you, or gave you money.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • 3rdway

      Remember. Bush in 2004 said he represented only those who voted for him. this mentality runs deep among these guys.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • ImIrish

      That's funny, because I don't feel like the current President represents me very well. I am for a balanced budget, cutting spending and getting it under control, and I want for everyone who is able to work gets a job. The astronomical unemployment is just shameful. Oh, right. That's Bush's fault, even though the President-in-Training has been on the job for nearly 4 years. If he wins re-election (God forbid!), will he still be blaming Bush in year 7?!

      September 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Obamanation does not support me my friend. Hmmm... I did not vote for him. Nor could I vote for the same mistake this time around. However many lemmings like yourself will. Have at it.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 3rdway

    I am of the 53% who do pay income taxes and yet I found these comments utterly insulting - to our intelligence. To suggest the rich do not depend on the government is beyond belief considering how much they get in corporate subsidies and peachy defense contracts, neither of which is an issue for discussion by anyone, including CNN, or even the Dems. Romney represents this idea: only the rich should be allowed to get government largess - the rest should depend on the rich. And we know how reliable the rich are when it comes to benefits, jobs staying in our country, not playing with other people's money, etc. I am technically still an independent, but I just can't take anything Republicans say seriously anymore.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lies and hate from the right

    Romney is just a putz. His mouth is not aligned with his brain.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JediColt

    What I want to hear is who in the 47% SHOULD be paying taxes? Is Romney suggesting the retired senior citizens get a job and pay taxes? Should our combat troops be paying taxes? Is it those below the poverty line that need their income taxed? Does Romney want investment income taxed so millionaires reporting losses are also taxed? So far its just a statistic being reported over and over, 47% 47% 47% but no substance behind it. I have yet to hear any group identified that is in this 47% that anyone has suggested should be paying taxes.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. CNN - the DNC Mouthpiece

    ARE YOU BETTER OFF TODAY THAN YOU WERE 4 YEARS AGO? ARE YOU OPTOMISTIC ABOUT YOUR FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF YOUR CHILDREN? If so, Obama is your man. If you want give America a shot at turning things around, Romney is your man.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observant Historian

      The nation is certainly much better off than it was four years ago, no thanks to the Republicans, who have made it their business to block every effort to improve the economy, with the stated intention to use that tactic to deny Obama a second term, consequences be damned. Voting for Romney is a vote to return to the same policies that led to the economic crisis. Re-electing the Repubs in '08 would have shown them doubling-down on those same policies – imagine where we'd be if they'd been elected then! The economic destruction that the Repubs have engaged in over the past three decades or more is not completely turned around in a few short years. This "are you better off" argument is all part of the Republican "war on history."

      September 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zella

      You bet your sweet bippy I am better off than I was four years ago – I have a job now after losing mine to outsourcing, and before you even ask, NO i didn't collect unemployment, because I didn't work enough hours to be eligble for it, and NO i never took a penny in government aid because I had saving which were depleted while I was unemployed. YES, I have a full-time job now, and YES I AM BETTER OFF THAN FOUR YEARS AGO!

      September 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Harvey

    Don't know about Romney's numbers, but is fundamentally correct. I do not mind helping someone you can not work or is temporarily down on their luck (i.e. out of work, but actively looking). Bit I will be d*amned before I will help someone who will not work and expects the rest of us to pay his way.

    I took food stamps once, had little choice, but I was off them in two months. Found a job pumping out septic tanks. It sucked, but it carried me through until I found something better. When I took the stamps, I asked them if there was something I could do to work for them. The looked at me like I was a raving lunatic. I guess the government expects you to be a leach

    September 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Your right Harvey, these people should be required to work for the hand outs. Used to be that way in the 20s and 30s. Also should be drug tested to get it, we are drug tested to work, they should be for our money!

      September 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Atheus

      Lol, pumping out septic tanks sucked...

      September 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pip

      Very noble Harvey but hardly necessary. Food stamps are something you paid for when you paid taxes – you already had worked for them. ...and if you had used them long term that's ok too. I an I hope many others don't begrudge helping to support others who are or will be down on their luck. It's called a social contract, where to some degree we look out for each other – abuse?of course it's out there but I think it's far below the so called 47%. Most in that situation would leap at a well or better paid job.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • rdpslp

      Harvey, I too commend you for your hard work and dedication to bettering your life but Pip you are an idiot. You and your kind are what is wrong with the world today. There are jobs out there for people who want to work. Yes they may be pumping out septic tanks or working in tobacoo fields or picking produce but they are there. If there weren't jobs then the illegal aliens wouldn't be breaching our borders to get over here! You have the mindset of its' ok you put in an application this week so we'll give you welfare for another week. I bet you are wearing your sandles and hippy outfit and sitting around smoking a peace pipe!!!!!

      September 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dale

    What Romney said was the fact 47% three quarters of those are third generation government assistance.
    They have figured out how to "game the system", one family member on assistance Family members work for cash then they throw in with the government assistance.

    The gaming circle needs to be broken.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • cleat

      yep- but politicials are too afraid becsuae places like cnn and the left will freak saying it "taking money away from babies, vets, crippled, blind...etc..etc...etc...etc...etc...etc...

      September 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drake

      You and Robme are both wrong. About 15% of Americans are on food stamps and pay no taxes. And a percentage of them WANT to work and have lost their jobs are have been burdened with health issues.
      You both have insulted veterans retirees and hard working business owners with your arrogant comments!

      September 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pip

      Yes but any sensible breakdown of that number shows that assumption to be ridiculous. It's been a long term conservative mantra that 50% dont pay tax – well any neutral fact checker will tell you the actual breakdown of that number. Is there abuse – certainly – but nowhere near half the population. Also many of these people are low income people from Republican states not democrats at all! So it's all in all not a good week for Romney.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. deep blue

    47% of Americans won't vote for me because Obama is bribing them with free stuff.

    I've heard a lot of complaints about Obama "dividing America" and "waging class warfare." Anyone else seeing a bit of a logical inconsistency here?

    September 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Michael

    Well this is a first..I agree with most of the comments so far!
    Mitt (aka 'The Glove") should not have said it if he wants to seriously contend. Secondly its partially true. The system is broken to the point of people taking advantage of the handouts. How do we fix it? Lets look for answers rather than call each other out.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Scott

    Judge Judy for President... I don't like either of them.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cleat

    I am talking that group that is on permanet welfare/food stamps. load up the cart with JUNK it all with food stamps, then go to the counter, buy a carton of cigs, $50 in lottery tickest, and get into the Exalade with 22's..and go home to the flat screen TV, and .gov provided house...
    THAT is what I have a probelm with!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaryM

      where? source?

      September 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pip

      marym – the other people on the Internet lol

      September 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • LB

      Cleat, what in the world are you talking about? You must be from the backwoods somewhere talking about purchasing $50 worth of cigarettes and spelling "Escalade" phonetically lol. Let's be REAL....

      You watch waaaaay too much TV......

      September 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Frediee

    This is turning into third world country politics were the candidates give handouts to the poor to grab the votes of the masses only to further dig the country in debt and benefit the few.....I would never vote for a president that has no experience in the private sector or who has never created a job. Politics should not be a career, it should be a service give once you proved yourself in life. Lets not get distracted here, we all know his focus was on this country's growing parasites and not on the justified unfortunate citizens that are really trying to get ahead.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaryM

      If you hadn't noticed, America is NOT a corporation and can not be run like one. YOU cant just fire people.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. laguna niguel

    How is it that the richest country in the world, a country that has provided Romney with such wealth and offshore bank accounts, cannot afford to provide food, health care, and housing for every citizen? If 10-20% can't find jobs, what are they to do? Starve, steal, rob the rich? How can a Christian nation say to the working poor and unemployed, "let them eat crab cakes?"

    September 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zella

      Yeah, that worked out well for 18th century France, didn't it?

      September 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • rdpslp

      Yes we can let them starve! Take care of the children, elderly and disabled and the rest can either work or starve! If you don't like it start donating your entire salary to charity! No where does it say we have to pay for people who don't want to work! Its not the people who have had a run of bad luck we are talking about. It's the generation after generation of lazy people who do not intend to work that makes up the meat of the 47%! They will tell you they can sit at home and make more than they can work and make mostly because they didn't apply themselves in school and have no skills or education! How can you feel sorry for someone who went to the same school as you did and had the same opportunities to learn as you did and they choose not to get up at 5:00 A.M, every morning and go to work like you do???? Most of the unemployed and i said most don't want to work! Why can't you people see that. We run ads for positions weekly and people don't apply or when they are told the job starts out at $10 per hour they say I can't work for that! Do you seriously feel sorry for somoeone like that?

      September 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jackie

    I'm an Obama voter but I put myself through college (unlike Mitt, who went to school on his parents' dime), bought my first and only home by myself (unlike Mitt whose parents bought him his first house), and I've worked two jobs 7 days a week when I need to, to make ends meet.

    Sorry Romney, your stereotypes and negativity couldn't be more biased and uninformed.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jackie

      Oh – and I pay taxes. Lots of taxes. How are those tax returns coming, Mitt?

      His comments are hypocritical and ignorant.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Oh Jackie my dear..... Yes, oh yes, you and your descendents and their descendents will also pay LOTS of taxes thanks to your vote...... its a crime he is in office.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • ColoradoDad

      I'm in the same boat Jackie. And I find it wholly offensive that Mr. Romney has to audacity to lump me into that 47%. I'm more than willing to compare my tax filing with Mr. Romney's to see who pays a higher percentage of income. Willing to be I do. @Michael, Please read before you remark. Under the Romney/Ryan plan taxes will be raised on the middle class, while concurrently lower for the upper class. So because of your vote sir, your descendants WILL still be paying more taxes than the GOP politicians, and will be paying even higher percentage of their income toward taxes then you are now. But don't let those little details matter, what are facts anyway.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • rdpslp

      Coloradodad if you are paying taxes you aren't in the 47%!!! How hard is it to read what he said? He said he understnad that there are 47% who pay no taxes and will not be swayed by his plan to lower taxes......

      September 19, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey

      @rdpslp what are you talking about?

      Payroll tax is paid by 30% of those he mentioned, plus state and local. They pay taxes.

      10% are retired.

      You are clueless.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
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