Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday sought to shift the focus from a leaked video of controversial comments he made at a fundraiser earlier this year to comments President Obama made in 1998 about the "redistribution" of wealth in America.
Romney, speaking on Fox News, did not back down from his controversial statements, in which he can be seen at a private fundraiser describing the majority of President Obama's supporters as people who are "dependent on government" and "believe that they are victims."
"We were of course talking about a campaign and how he's going to get close to half the vote, I'm going to get half the vote, approximately, I hope," Romney told Fox News' Neil Cavuto. "I want to get 50.1 percent or more. Frankly we have two very different views about America. The president's view is one of larger government, there's a tape that came out today where the president's saying he likes redistribution. I disagree."
Romney acknowledged that many of the "47 percent" he criticized for not paying income taxes are retirees and members of the military, adding, "and that's as it should be." He then went on to say that the problem in the country is "so many people have fallen into poverty that they're not paying taxes." Pointing to the record number of Americans on food stamps, Romney said "the right course to help them is not to just have government handing out, it's instead government helping people to get back to good jobs."
Romney also referenced "a tape that just came out today where the President is saying he likes redistribution."
"I disagree," Romney continued. "I think a society based upon a government-centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that's the wrong course for America. That will not build a strong America or help people out of poverty."
Romney is referring to a video being featured on the conservative news aggregator The Drudge Report and pushed aggressively by Republicans today. It features what is billed as Mr. Obama speaking at Loyola University in 1998. In the video, the president is heard saying that it's important to "somehow resuscitate the notion that government action can be effective at all." (See it at left.)
"There has been a systematic - I don't think it's too strong to call it a propaganda campaign - against the possibility of government action and its efficacy," he says. "And I think some of it has been deserved. Chicago Housing Authority has not been a model of good policy-making and neither necessarily have been the Chicago Public Schools. What that means then is that as we try to resuscitate this notion that we're all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative in thinking how - what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live."
He continues: "And my suggestion I guess would be that the trick - and this is one of the few areas where I think there are technical issues that have to be dealt with as opposed to just political issues - I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution - because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
In his Fox News interview, Romney said these comments illustrate the difference between the two candidates.
"I believe the right course for America is one where government steps in to help those that are in need," he said. "We're a compassionate people, but then we let people build their own lives, create enterprises. We believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution. The right course for America is to create growth, create wealth, not to redistribute wealth."
Romney, who said in the leaked comments that the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes are going to vote for the president so he doesn't need to worry about them, also said that he is trying to "get as many [votes] as I can from every single cohort in this country."