We’ve all seen the response from progressives and pundits to Mitt Romney’s comment that 47 percent of the electorate are victims who want handouts, don’t pay their fair share in taxes, and who won’t take responsibility for their lives. But what are the conservatives saying?
We thought we’d take a look.
As it turns out, very, very few conservatives that we can tell are defending Romney.
Here’s one surrogate’s attempt, explaining the comments as aimed at business people:
During an appearance on MSNBC, Ehrlich explained that the inarticulate comments as remarks “to a bunch of business people about tax cuts because these folks care about tax cuts.”
Others are attempting to ignore the comments, while trying to make the entitlement culture narrative stick:
Mostly, though, reaction from conservatives has been harshly negative.
Many complain Romney is wrong to question long-standing efforts by conservatives to make Americans pay less in taxes. For example:
His description of the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes as “dependents” flies in the face of the conservative view that Americans should be paying fewer, not more, taxes. And historically, most Americans have not paid income taxes. Moreover, most of those who don’t pay income taxes still contribute to the federal government in the form of payroll taxes and other federal taxes and fees. The political argument, that those who are “dependents” won’t be voting for Romney anyway, is demonstrably wrong, and the content and tone of Romney’s remarks don’t strike many conservatives (and others) as particularly presidential.
Michael Warren, Conservatives Agree: Romney’s Wrong
Others note that it’s just bad electoral politics, as most voters don’t see the world in stark 47/53 terms of moochers and job creators.
Republicans dwell on the heroic entrepreneur held back by taxes and regulation, which must be part of the story that a free-market party tells. But most people don’t see themselves in that storyline, any more than they see themselves as dependents of the federal government. They don’t see Americans as divided between makers and takers.
To the extent Republicans do, they’re handicapping themselves.
Ramesh Ponnuru, The Right is Wrong to Pin Obama’s Edge on the Welfare State, an analysis that was eagerly tweeted by the Buckeye Institute’s Kevin Holtsberry
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.
Bill Kristol, A Note on Romney’s Arrogant and Stupid Remarks
But for just as many conservatives who believe Romney’s wrong, there are those saying he’d better stick with this storyline, or prove he’s not a true conservative after all:
What he ought to do is step up and embrace the basic division in our nation, including the fact that nearly half the country pays no income taxes. Acknowledge it — and then explain why, morally, this is not a good thing. Why having no skin in the game while at the same time demanding a say in the proceedings at the federal level is fundamentally undemocratic.
Michael Walsh, Mitt’s Gettysburg Moment
As you can see, threading this needle, just to win back the support of his own conservative base, is going to be a challenge. Forget the fact he needs to win over independents, women and moderates.
Which might explain why he’s going on Fox News today to speak to them. Shoring up your base with 49 days to go before the election is not exactly where you want to be.