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. m

    Romney has cooked his own goose – no matter what he says or does will not help him.

    September 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. John from South Jersey

    Romney was wrong. In addition to the 47% who don't pay Federal Taxes there are the millions more who have government jobs at Federal, State & Local Level plus Union workers who are tied directly to government contracts for their jobs that will vote for Obama no matter how bad he is as President. Sorry to say but it's the brutal truth and there's no way he'll change your mind on election day... as evidenced by the comments here.

    September 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Mark

    The brutal truth!!!!!!

    September 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. kk

    the truth hurts!

    September 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. American

    I know he's been honest in his speech...not spinning it or sweetening their position as our current administration shows. Finally an individual who calls it like it is and doesn't back down. Reminds me of the same liberal spin the press gave Ronald Regan when he ran for President and President Carter was in office. The media attacked Regan regarding his comments too.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. GaryB

    Sorry, but if Mr. Rice in the article ever thought that Romney (or Republican elite in general) were ever on his side, he was sadly mistaken. The GOP uses social issues like abortion to convince people who are actually hurt by Republican policies to vote against their own financial self-interest. It's all part of the conservative republican elite plan to accelerate the redistribution of wealth away from the middle class and into the hands of a very few people at the top. It's sad how many middle class red staters are afraid Obama launching class warfare; they don't realize that the conservative republican elite declared war against them years ago.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yvette

      Our family has several millionaires in it and we will nearly all vote for Omaha. We all pay taxes and believe it is our responsibility to do so. We don’t believe there is much difference between the people that believe they are owed something and those people that believe they can use off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes. They are both stealing from America.

      September 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. longtooth

    Why do we have to choose between extremes? There are many welfare moochers and food stamp junkies, and there are many who temporarily need government help. There are many disabled vets, and there are many with phony disabilities who collect a check every month. If Romney really wants to win this, he should double down on this idea to force a public discussion. He won't, because he doesn't have the conviction or the guts. That's why I vote for Obama. At least you know where he stands.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. TheOneTheOnly

    This is all a bunch of crap as far as i am concerned. Everyone who supports Romney is ignorant, and you should realize that. I was not big on Obama until i found out who Romney really was. there is no way i will be voting for someone who is two faced and dosent care about all of America as a whole, he only cares if your rich enough to keep yourself out of treding water. So screw him.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Eatmore

    Hey Mitt,

    If you don't like people needing the government to survive, how about keeping some jobs in this country dude instead of outsourcing them.

    How about paying your fair share of taxes instead of hiding your money in the Caymen Islands?

    People in glass houses...

    September 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. seale53

    He wasn't refering to vets or old people. He was refering to the cycle of rodents have kids @ 15 and their kids having kids @15 and their kids having kids @ 15 and expecting the gov. to pay for it. Come on, it's time to stop paying for slavery. Get a job or don't have kids.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Name s kel

      Castration , seale try that so you wont have anymore like you to pollute this country. Tea trash ,meth head.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. scedu1273

    What is amazing isn't that Romney would make such comments but that the democrats and media aren't disputing that nearly half of Americans are living on government support. Wake up America. We are Trillions of dollars in debt. We have bankrupted our children's future. It's time we hold our elected leaders accountable.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Elaine

    Romney told the truth and that's a fact. 47% of Obama voters gonna vote for Obama regardless. People making a big deal because its the truth, and yes, the truth hurts sometimes.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Go to Hell Mittens

      Better pray the republicans don't leave you to die when the time comes that you need help.

      September 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Curt29

      That's not all Romney said. Sure you can think that the statement is true if you don't understand what we being said. Sure 47% of Obama supporters are going to vote for Obama. There is nothing wrong with that. Whatever percentage or Romney supporters there are will vote for Romney.

      Implying that all Obama supporters feel like they are "victims" that depend on the government is simply false.

      September 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      The thing is of those 47%... i'd argue a large number will be voting for Mitt Romney. Most of the 47% number he was referring to are seniors on SS and Medicare(inclined to vote for Mitt).

      Also as many people have pointed out, Red States are the most dependent on federal funds. They receive more than they pay.

      September 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eatmore

      I think you have to take what he said and add it to his shady history plus his lack of foreign policy, his flip flopping on healthcare, etc. etc. etc. to see he needs to get out of his ivory tower. He is no more for the middle class than was Marie Antoinette.

      September 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • SC

      You've never not payed income taxes? You never beeen a student in college – you never worked part ime, been unemployed, not earned enough money to have to pay income taxes? You don't know anyone disabled, ill, unempoyed at any time in your life?

      Is this really Ann Romney?

      September 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tom

    Today the top 10% of earners in the USA pay over 70% of all federal income taxes. The bottom 47% pay none. This is not how things were 35 years ago, when the distribution of income tax payments was spread much more evenly across different income levels. Everyone should have some skin in the game, and everyone should therefore have to pay taxes. A more rationale system would be to have a flat tax rate, say 20%, on all income regardless of source (e.g., whether investment income, wages, or capital gains) that everyone would have to pay. It would be much more fair than our current system, where those who work hard and earn a lot are basically paying for everyone else.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • One one

      @ tom, AND, they are being villanized, and told they are the problem for not paying their "fair share".

      September 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris mankey

      "Today the top 10% of earners in the USA pay over 70% of all federal income taxes"

      But they pay a much smaller percentage of their incomes in taxes. The reason that 10 percent of top earners pay those taxes is because they are billionaires. They aren't a persecuted collection of Randian produces, their people who have billions of dollars.

      September 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gene

      Absolutely, we can't afford to keep things running the way they are. The problem is the debt. We have to cut back, as much as we would like to provide everything for all it isn't realistic. It is like my home budget if I spend more than I make then I am in trouble. We have been in trouble for a long time spending more than we make. A flat tax would be best where all no matter what you make contribute. As a middle class earner I would appreciate a flat tax.

      September 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • synp

      35 years ago, the income was also spread more evenly among the income levels. That's a trend that should be reversed.

      Regardless of your views on deficits and big vs small government, such huge gaps in buying power destroy societies.

      September 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • ezgoer89

      Tom... you are incredibly misinformed. 1980s marginal tax rates ranged from 14% for those making between $3400 & $5500 to 70%... YES, SEVENTY PERCENT, for those making over $215,400. You know what those same people at the top of the income ladder pay today... THIRTY FIVE PERCENT. Do you really need to wonder why we have a huge deficit?

      September 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • ty

      said the rich guy

      September 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • froggyalley

      Oh good. Then Romney will have a job for every person who WANTS to work at a living wage on January 21, 2013. Oh good. I can hardly wait. What are we going to do with the blind, lame and halt? Do they have ice floes in the Potomac?

      September 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. One one

    The basic concept is the truth but the actual words poorly chosen which gives his opponents the opportunity to spin them into slings and arrows.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gene

      What amazes me is how the liberal press make such a big thing of his remarks, but Obama's mis-statements and errors in judgement are overlooked. Let's face it Obama had his 4 years and didn't fix anything. He wants America to turn into a Socialist state. Where government is huge and income redistribution. That is not what America was built on nor will it make us profitable and a growth economy in the future. If you want some examples look at France and Britain.

      September 19, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cindy

    Of course Romney is just being truthful. He and his elite friends have a plan on what to do with the countries money and it does not include regular people. Only a fool would turn his life and his childrens lives over to this group.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • froggyalley

      He's white, ain't he? That's good enough for some folk!

      idiots...

      September 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
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