Mitt Romney has had a bad week. His ill timed comments on attacks of American embassies hurt his foreign policy credentials. Now, behind the scenes footage of comments he made at a fundraiser are causing an uproar. Romney claims that 47% of the population does not pay income taxes and is dependent on government. The former Massachusetts governor claims he can not win their votes because he can not convince them to take responsibility and care for their lives.
While liberal and moderate commentators were stunned by the comments, conservative pundits were delighted. Many are encouraging Governor Romney to push this line of attack. Figures like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity want Romney to make this one of his core arguments. They believe by capitalizing on this stance, he can win the election.
Thus far, Romney appears to be heeding their advice. He has not backed down from his statements, and has doubled down on some of them. While Romney did admit that his language was not eloquent, he still believes in the core message behind it. He argues that President Obama wants a government centered society, while he wants one centered around the private sector.
This strategy is political suicide. The statements were damning, and he should have immediately distanced himself from them. The pundits who want him to stand by these comments are practically making him walk the plank.
The facts do not back up the claims Romney has made. For starters, many of the so called 47% who do not pay taxes live in red states. Many are middle class white voters, who swing heavily towards Romney. Others are seniors living on Social Security and Welfare, another group Romney has an advantage with. His statements were an insult to many of his own followers.
There is a touch of hypocrisy in the statement as well. The reason many of these people do not pay any federal income tax is due to tax cuts put in place by Republicans. Bigger child tax credits wipe out many middle class family’s tax liability. In fact, many people actually end up getting more money back from the federal government than they pay in.
It is generally not a good idea to insult the electorate, especially 47% of it. Romney’s statements insinuate that the people who pay no federal income tax don’t care about their lives and have no personal responsibility. This ignores the fact that many citizens who pay no federal income tax still pay a higher tax rate than Mitt Romney (around 14%) due to payroll taxes (around 15%).
If Romney continues to follow the advice of talking heads like Limbaugh and O’Reilly, he is going to lose the election. He is already in bad shape, and barring an economic catastrophe before the election, his chances are not looking good. To push a narrative that 47% of the electorate do not care about their lives is madness. Romney needs to do something he has become quite accustomed to doing, and that is flipping his position.