Mitt Romney deals with the 47 percent
September 28, 2012
The 47 percent have been asked and they don’t like Mitt Romney.
In a round of polls done since a tape of Mitt Romney saying that 47 percent of Americans “believe that they are victims” and “my job is not to worry about those people” was released, those “victims” are making their voices heard. In new polls released Wednesday by The New York Times, CBS News and Quinnipiac University, Obama has opened up big leads in key states.
These polls spell trouble for the Romney campaign. In Florida, which decided the 2000 election, Obama is leading Romney 53 to 44 percent. In Ohio, which decided the 2004 election, Obama leads Romney 53 to 43 percent. In Pennsylvania, which John McCain desperately wanted to win in 2008, Obama leads 54 to 42 percent.
Although the national polls still predict a close race, it’s the results in these states that will decide the election. After all, Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 election, but lost because he didn’t win Florida’s electoral votes.
The tape is exactly what the Obama campaign needed to galvanize independent voters. It changes their views from “Romney might help the economy” to “Romney doesn’t care about me because I’m poor and he’s rich” or “Romney wants to take away Medicare because he’s not worried about the elderly who don’t pay taxes” or “Romney doesn’t want to get out of Afghanistan because he doesn’t care about the troops who don’t pay taxes.”
Romney got one thing right in that video: the groups of voters that Obama depended on in 2008 are part of that 47 percent. Student voters, blue-collar workers, minorities and young parents all helped him win. These groups have drifted from Obama and become more apathetic, but they certainly don’t think of themselves as “victims,” and they will stand up and say that in November.
The tape makes Democrats think about how the country would be with Romney as president. Call it the “Sarah Palin” effect: John McCain’s “Democrats for McCain” movement fell apart when people started thinking about what Sarah Palin as vice president would really mean. How can we call ourselves the land of opportunity if our president doesn’t care about people who need the government to give them some help to get to a better life?
Romney is trying to fight back against the tape. Wednesday in Ohio, he said, “My heart aches for the people I’ve seen.” Hard to believe him, given that he says a completely different thing when he thinks the cameras are off. Americans aren’t buying it, according to polls.
Romney’s campaign isn’t dead just yet. The three major debates are coming up, and Barack Obama is a much more challenging opponent than Rick Perry or Herman Cain. Romney has his last chance to focus his message on the economy and be the Ronald Reagan to Obama’s Jimmy Carter.
That could be tough if the questions are about the Ryan plan, his shameful response to the Middle East crisis, the 47 percent or any of the other things that have tripped up Romney in the last few weeks. Imagine Romney being asked about his opinion of Latinos after the jokes he made in the video or whether he really believes Palestinians and Israelis can work together (spoiler alert: he doesn’t).
With the voter ID laws that Republicans pushed being struck down, these 47 percent will vote. It’s going to be tough for Romney to convince them that his heart aches when he thinks that he’ll “never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” How can America believe in Mitt Romney if he doesn’t even believe in himself?
The polls are in: they don’t.
Photo: Mitt Romney address the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2012.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared as a column in The Maneater on September 28, 2012.