Romney seizes the initiative over class warfare
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ATLANTA -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney went on the offense Wednesday over secretly videotaped remarks he made earlier this year, continuing an effort to transform the campaign distraction into a broader debate about the role of government.
"The question in this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class," he told hundreds of donors at an Atlanta fundraiser, adding that both he and President Barack Obama share that feeling. "The question is who can help the middle class. I can, he can't," Mr. Romney said.
Two weeks before he faces Mr. Obama in the first of three debates, Mr. Romney and his team have embraced the videotaped comments surfacing this week that he made before Florida donors in May, in which he dismissed almost half of Americans as government-dependent "victims" who will support Mr. Obama in the November election.
He wrote in an essay published Wednesday in USA Today that under Mr. Obama, "we have a stagnant economy that fosters government dependency. Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty."
Mr. Obama's Democratic allies intensified their criticisms of Mr. Romney over the videotaped comments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., opened the chamber's proceedings Wednesday morning by chastising the Republican nominee, saying, "This rare look at the real Mitt Romney proves one thing: that he is completely out of touch with average Americans."
Mr. Obama, in an appearance Tuesday on CBS's "Late Show with David Letterman," rejected the idea that Americans oppose government assistance. There's "nothing wrong" with giving "a helping hand," he said, adding that Americans don't want a president who is "writing off a big chunk of the country."
The flap comes at a critical moment for Mr. Romney, who has been buffeted by news reports about turmoil within his campaign, bipartisan criticism of his comments after the death of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, and the disclosure that his campaign borrowed $20 million to cover campaign expenses while he was waiting to use his funds available once he officially became the GOP nominee late last month. The campaign has paid back $9 million of the loan, leaving $11 million remaining that will be easily repaid, according to a Romney aide.
Mr. Romney defended his videotaped comments in an interview Tuesday on Fox News. He said he didn't mean to write off any group of voters, and sought to place his statement in the broader context of his campaign message.
"We believe in free people and free enterprise; not redistribution," Mr. Romney said. He twice mentioned a video publicized Tuesday by the online Drudge Report, in which Mr. Obama is heard in a talk 14 years ago advocating government actions that facilitate "redistribution -- because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure everybody's got a shot."
Mr. Romney on Wednesday continued this line of attack against Mr. Obama.
First Published September 20, 2012 12:00 am