Inside Donor Speeches Become Slippery Slope for Candidates
The controversy over Mitt Romney's recent comments to a private meeting of big money donors caught on a hidden camera is the latest indication of what is becoming a major pitfall of nearly billion dollar presidential campaigns -- candidate speeches pandering to supporters that appear out of touch when glimpsed by the larger public.
In the video, Romney is heard depicting President Barack Obama supporters as government freeloaders who vote for him to continue getting government benefits and to not pay taxes.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what ... 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. And the government should give it to them," Romney said.
Mother Jones was the first major publication to post the video. It was brought to the attention of David Corn, Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones, by James Carter IV, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. James Carter is currently unemployed and has been doing opposition research in the hopes that it will lead to career opportunities, according to New York magazine.
Romney's comments have been widely rebuked as both arrogant and misinformed by liberals and conservatives alike.
Several conservative and libertarian commentators, such as The New York Times' David Brooks, pointed out that a majority of those who receive the most from government spending -- seniors -- will most likely vote for Romney.
"Personally, I think [Romney]'s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not -- some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He's running a depressingly inept presidential campaign," Brooks concluded.
Romney's comments recalled, for some, a gaffe Barack Obama made during his 2008 presidential campaign at a San Francisco fundraiser.
In explaining why small town midwesterners do not support him, Obama said they "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
In a Wednesday post for Buzzfeed, Blake Zeff argued that Romney's comments provide a helpful explanation of how political campaigns work. With the high cost of campaigns, large sum donors are often sold on the notion that they are being offered a special, inside look at the campaign. So candidates are advised to not give the usual stump speech when speaking to these audiences.
"Which means that when a candidate attends a fundraising event hosted by a top donor, he or she usually deviates from the stump speech, talks politics, speaks casually, and tries to give the attendees the feeling they're in on some insider campaign scoops, as an enticement to get invested (literally and figuratively)," Zeff wrote.
Zeff, who has worked on political campaigns for President Barack Obama, Sec. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. Chuch Schumer, said Romney's behavior was not unusual.
"At the event in question, Mitt Romney, like so many politicians before, played the role of gregarious, I'm-gonna-let-you-in-on-a-secret, chummy old pal. Unlike so many before, he donned the hat of political prognosticator, talking about 47 percent of the electorate that he wouldn't have. And then cast those Americans (not all that accurately) as not paying taxes, and called them victims. It's this same loosy-goosy, throw-out-the-stump-speech approach that likely led to President Obama's own dramatic screw-up up at a fundraiser in 2008, when he called some voters bitter," Zeff concluded.