Update III: Scott Brown distances himself from Romney:
“That’s not the way I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being forced into public assistance for lack of jobs,” Brown told The Hill.
Update II: Rush Limbaugh says this could be a “golden opportunity” for Mitt Romney.
And that “a lot of people have been saying this kind of thing.”
Update: Bill Kristol joined those who were not pleased with the comments, writing on the Weekly Standard website: ”It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!). But that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that Romney’s comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant.”
Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, who is running in Connecticut, distanced herself from Romney’s remarks. “I disagree with Governor Romney’s insinuation that 47% of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care,” she said in a statement on her website. “I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be. People today are struggling because the government has failed to keep America competitive, failed to support job creators, and failed to get our economy back on track.”
Even Rep. Allen West (R.-Fla.) said on Fox & Friends that he thought Mitt’s comments were “a little clumsy.” He added: ”Mitt Romney probably could have better explained himself.”
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Mitt Romney’s been getting hammered for his remarks that “47 percent” of Americans are basically government freeloaders, and will vote for Obama no matter what.
So how are conservatives reacting?
Some thought Romney’s comments were a disaster, or at the very least flat-out wrong:
Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I’d put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. But, as a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.
The problem is that Romney isn’t basing that figure on dependency on government programs. He’s using the rough percentage of people who pay no federal income tax.
There are two reasons the percentage of Americans who don’t write checks to the IRS has spiked in recent years: the bad economy, which Romney pledges to ameliorate, and Republican tax cuts, which Romney plans to continue.
Others saw Romney’s comments as simply pandering to his donors and his base:
As with Obama's "bitter clingers," Romney's "47 percent" line is useful window into what each party's donor class wants to be told.
This is basically what he was trying to tell the donor who asked the question: We live in a world of limited resources, campaigns must wisely husband their resources (time and money). Political targeting involves two very politically incorrect things — profiling and discrimination, and Obama and I will do both. We will profile and target persuadable, likely voters for advocacy. We will target supporters for turnout. And, yes, both sides will ignore people we know will never vote for us. (Note: I can say this because I’m not running for president.)
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said on “The Situation Room” that Romney was “on message”:
Romney, for his part, said in an unplanned press conference that his comments were “not elegantly stated”:
Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at email@example.com.