Florida affects election again, as new Mitt Romney video puts GOP take on non-taxpayers centerstage
It somehow figures that the latest video to buffet GOP candidate Mitt Romney's presidential campaign was secretly recorded at a fund-raiser in Boca Raton.
Even when our own elections run smoothly, Florida has a way of reaching up and rejiggering the landscape in important ballot contests.
During the Republican National Convention in Tampa, supporters wondered if the very act of locating the event in Florida -- where Hurricane Isaac forced cancellation of one day's programming, distracted members of the national media and kept participants on edge -- might cost Romney a badly-needed post-convention bounce.
Now the liberal magazine Mother Jones has uncorked video of an appearance at a Boca Raton fundraiser where Romney asserted of Obama supporters: "there are 47 percent (of total voters) who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement."
The video was recorded secretly at a $50,000 a plate dinner May 17 at the home of equity manager Marc Leder. Neither Mother Jones nor NBC News, which also got a copy of the video, is divulging who made it. Buzzfeed's Ben Smith documents how the anonymous leaker tried for some time to get the world to pay attention to the video.
Romney said Monday the comments were not "elegantly stated" but didn't disavow them. He also seems to be citing a stereotype contradicted by facts; this map of the 47 percent who don't pay federal income tax shows lots of states where republicans do well, including Florida, which ranks 9th among populations which don't pay federal income tax.
And as this analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, even households which don't pay federal income tax do still pay taxes, including other federal taxes. (even some conservatives, highlighted in this Weekly Standard story, disagree with Romney.)
What Romney really did was leverage some particularly unkind stereotypes about the poor and the working poor, as well as some awful stereotypes about Obama supporters. This wasn't particularly new -- feels like a small leap from Newt Gingrich's "food stamp president" line to telling rich people all Obama voters want government handouts. But it's an inaccurate prejudice just as well.
The comments in it landed on the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, inspiring the NYT's conservative columnist David Brooks to write a column dubbed "Thurston Howell Romney" -- comparing the millionaire candidate to the hapless tycoon on Gilligan's Island.
Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein noted: "Part of the reason so many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans…Republicans are arguing that these Americans they have helped free from income taxes have become a dependent and destabilizing ‘taker’ class who want to hike taxes on the rich in order to purchase more social services for themselves. The antidote, as you can see in both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s policy platforms, is to further cut taxes on ‘job creators’ while cutting the social services that these takers depend on.”
As policy wonks might say, the optics of this situation are terrible; a millionaire son of a wealthy businessman and powerful politician tells an audience of wealthy donors half the country's voters see themselves as victims who want government handouts. Nevermind that some who don't pay federal income taxes are senior citizens who might actually vote Republican, or that many who don't pay federal taxes pay plenty of other taxes.
This is a comment which will dog Romney like Obama's comments in the 2008 election on working class voters who "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or anti-pathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." Yes, that's a prejudice about working class voters, and Obma rightly got called on it.
NBC's Today show seemed to put the cherry on top of this gaffe, showcasing the video Donald Trump wanted to present at the RNC, where he "fires" a Barack Obama impersonator in the style of his reality TV show, The Apprentice. Of course, Trump advised Romney not to apologize; another millionaire son of wealthy parents telling the GOP candidate to stick to his guns.
Trump's video didn't air at the RNC because Isaac's approach led the GOP to shave a day off the event.
So you can thank Florida for one thing in the presidential election.