Thursday, April 19, 2018

Romney embraces 'the 100 percent'

CORAL GABLES — Mitt Romney had no time to warm up Wednesday at a forum in South Florida before he was asked about his hidden-video remarks where he suggested that 47 percent of Americans are moochers.

That includes veterans, Univision's Jorge Ramos pointed out.

Romney was ready, addressing his first public audience since the emergence of the videotape.

"This is a campaign about the 100 percent. And over the last several years, you've seen greater and greater divisiveness in this country," he said at the Gran Encuentro event at the University of Miami, which was broadcast later that evening by the Spanish-language TV network.

The Republican presidential candidate never explicitly blamed President Barack Obama by name, but he soon ticked off the troubles of the past four years: 47 million people on food stamps, 23 million people out of work or under-employed, high poverty rates.

Romney, who was in South Florida to court Hispanic voters, said he would do better: "I have a record. I've demonstrated my capacity to help the 100 percent when I was governor."

His attempts to get his campaign back on track ran into new difficulty Wednesday in the form of criticism from rank-and-file Republicans concerned about their own election prospects in the fall.

"I have a very different view of the world," said appointed Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, taking issue with Romney's dismissive comments about Americans who pay no income taxes. Separately, Senate GOP leaders avoided answering questions about their presidential candidate at a news conference in the Capitol.

Earlier in the day, at an Atlanta fundraiser, Romney said: "The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class. I do. He (Obama) does. The question is who can help the poor and the middle class. I can. He can't."

For a second day in a row, he referred to a video of Obama, made in 1998. An Illinois state senator at the time, Obama said he believed in income redistribution, "at least to a certain level to make sure everybody's got a shot."

Romney added that the country "does not work by a government saying, become dependent on government, become dependent upon redistribution. That will kill the American entrepreneurship that's lifted our economy over the years."

Obama spent the day in the White House, a rarity in a race with less than seven weeks yet to run. He will appear at the same Univision forum today and has a private fundraiser tonight at a home in South Tampa.

Romney will be in Sarasota, where he plans to highlight cuts to Medicare.

A new AP-GfK poll taken before the Romney video was revealed put Obama's overall approval rating among voting-age adults at 56 percent. Among likely voters, however, the race was a statistical tie, with Obama at 47 percent and Romney at 46 percent.

A Fox poll of likely Florida voters released just before the Univision forum showed Obama leading Romney 58-37 percent among Hispanics. Overall, Obama has an inside-the-error-margin lead of 49-44 over Romney.

State surveys by Quinnipiac University, the New York Times and CBS News showed Obama at over 50 percent support among likely voters in Virginia, with 13 electoral votes, and Wisconsin, with 10. Obama carried Wisconsin handily four years ago, but Romney recently signaled he was hoping to make it competitive.

"This is our election to lose," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "There's a reason no president has ever been elected with economic numbers like this. If Obama wins, he'll be rewriting political history."

Information from the Miami Herald and Associated Press was used in this report.

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