The video of Mitt Romney condemning 47 percent of the nation as lazy parasites who refuse to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives” had a significant impact on the campaign. Yesterday, hoping to undo some of the damage, Romney told Fox News’ Sean Hannity he didn’t really mean what he said.
For those who can’t watch clips online, the Republican candidate, asked what he would have said during the debate if President Obama had brought up the controversy, said, “Well, clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right. In this case, I said something that’s completely wrong.”
As an electoral tactic, this certainly makes sense. Candidates who condemn nearly half the country, out loud, generally struggle to win national elections.
But it’s still awfully difficult to take Romney’s latest reversal seriously. For one thing, the public has to decide which Romney was sincere – the one speaking candidly with supporters, when he thought no one else would hear his sentiments, or the one doing damage-control on national television five weeks before Election Day.
For another, immediately after the video surface, Romney had an opportunity to disavow the recorded comments, but he did the exact opposite. Indeed, the Republican said last month that the video showed him repeating a message “I’m going to carry and continue to carry.” He added that the comments are “something I talk about a good deal in rallies and speeches and so forth.”
If his 47-percent comments were “completely wrong,” why did it take him so long to figure that out? We’ll never know for sure, but the answer, I suspect, has everything to do with his standing in the polls, and nothing to do with genuine regret.