Republican Mitt Romney has seven weeks before the US presidential election to overcome his latest campaign stumble, a secretly made video that shows him telling wealthy donors that nearly half of Americans are dependent on government and that his role “is not to worry about those people.”
More footage was released today from the same event, with Romney saying Palestinians are "committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel" and suggesting that efforts at Mideast peace under his administration would languish.
Not long after the video surfaced, a tired-looking Romney held a hastily called late-night news conference and conceded his "off the cuff" remarks were not "elegantly stated." The Romney campaign has not disputed the video's authenticity.
President Barack Obama's campaign quickly seized on the video, obtained by Mother Jones magazine and posted online just as Romney's campaign was saying it needed a change in campaign strategy to gain momentum in the still-close race.
As Obama opens a lead in the polls, Romney has been fighting off criticism from powerful Republican voices blaming him for missing opportunities at the party's recent national convention, on Middle East unrest and on the US economy, which is seen as the president's weakest point.
Obama's campaign called the video, taken in May at a gathering of wealthy donors in Florida, "shocking."
"It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.
In the video, Romney says, "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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."
In the footage released today, Romney criticized Obama's foreign policy approach as "naive."
"The president's foreign policy, in my opinion, is formed in part by a perception he has that his magnetism, and his charm, and his persuasiveness is so compelling that he can sit down with people like (Vladimir) Putin and (Hugo) Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and that they'll find that we're such wonderful people that they'll go on with us, and they'll stop doing bad things," Romney said. "And it's an extraordinarily naive perception."
The private remarks are the latest comments from the multimillionaire businessman whom Democrats have criticized as out of touch. During the primary campaign for the Republican nomination, Romney insisted that he was "not concerned" about the very poor and said that his wife drove a "couple of Cadillacs."
According to the August 2010 AP-GfK poll, a majority of Americans who make less than $30,000 a year are Democrats. But 27 percent identify as Republicans, and 15 percent say they're independents.
Looking to change the subject, Romney's campaign rolled out a television ad featuring a mother and infant, aimed at cutting into Obama's advantage with female voters.
Romney had fundraising events planned today but no public appearances.
Obama headed to New York today for a $40,000-a-ticket fundraiser with Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
Voters say they believe Obama has a better understanding of their problems and concerns than Romney does. A CBS/New York Times poll showed 60 percent of likely voters said Obama understands the needs and problems of people like them, while 37 percent said he did not. For Romney, the same question found that 46 percent felt he did understand people's needs, while 48 percent said he didn't.