Mitt's '47%' Is Not a Macaca Moment

Video Is Damaging, But Not the End of the Road

By Published on .

Ken Wheaton
Ken Wheaton
At the risk of winning a Dick Morris award, let me make a bold prediction: the video of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney writing off 47% of the electorate isn't a campaign-ending event. It is definitely not something on the order of George Allen's 2006 "macaca moment."

Before I lay out the case and crush all opposition, however, I ask that you watch the video, form your own conclusions and participate in our little poll. The video was posted at Mother Jones yesterday. Below is just one excerpt, but Mother Jones landed itself a really killer scoop and has more video, so do go check it out.

If you can't watch the video, this is the key quote by Romney:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the 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. That that 's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax.

The demographic approach
Awful, isn't it? Out-of -touch millionaire Mitt Romney saying there's no point in paying attention to almost half of the voting population of the U.S.

But here's the thing. He's right that there are votes he's not going to win. And if you consider yourself a marketing or advertising professional, you know he's right. In his typically flat, business-like tone, Romney is simply stating the truth that at least 47% of the country will not vote for him. Ever. Under any circumstances. So why waste the time trying to persuade them? Like it or not, this is the reality of American politics as recognized by both parties. In typical election years, the overwhelming majority of voters make up their mind based almost completely on the letter of the alphabet behind the presidential candidate's name. So the game is to motivate your base and aim for that sliver of the pie that switches from year to year -- those infamous swing and undecided voters.

He's also right -- partly -- about the 47% thing. According to a Tax Policy Center analysis, 46% or so of Americans don't pay federal income tax.

Being right on figures, of course, is rarely solid footing in politics. Especially when you then slide into lumping all of the non-tax-payers into a group of entitled dependents. This does not sit well with large numbers of people.

But again, those large numbers of people weren't going to vote for Romney in the first place. Let's look at it another way. Imagine if Barack Obama wrote off almost half of the populace because they'd never vote for him. How much damage would that do to his chances of becoming president? The world may never know because -- oh, wait. Remember this gem?

So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to their guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or ... uh, anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
That was candidate Barack Obama speaking to a room of fundraisers in 2008. And we all remember how that turned out.

It's amazing that both voters and the media claim they want more honesty, more unvarnished truth from their politicians, but the minute something like this comes out, we all pretend to be scandalized and offended.

Granted, this incident will not do Romney any favors. And Barack Obama and the Democrats are right this minute slicing and dicing this video into nice little 30-second commercials with which they'll hammer Romney repeatedly.

Wait, this just dropped into my inbox:

Crying wolf?
And the media definitely seemed to be in a joyous uproar this morning. While at the gym, I noted that CNN was going all-in on "End of the Road?" debates and had a full line of gleeful political pundits slobbering like hyenas. I didn't turn on the sound because exposure to such high concentrations of idiocy can lead to life-threatening accidents while using a treadmill.

The thing is , this Romney video might actually have done more damage if the media hadn't seemingly been on a Romney gaffe-hunt all summer long. Remember when his European tour ruined his chances of winning? Remember when Clint Eastwood and His Empty Chair ruined Romney's hopes for office? And when his birth-certificate joke sunk him? All of this led to last week's media-beclowning frenzy in which, in the wake of riots and killings in the Middle East, they focused so much on Romney's statements, you would have thought he was the Commander in Chief (or that the average American would ding a candidate for choosing harsh words over carefully considered diplo-speak in the wake of such events).

Maybe it's a case of crying wolf too often.

Indeed, last week, Mitt Romney said one of the stupidest things he's said on the campaign trail -- probably his most bone-headed move since he offered to bet Ricky Perry $10,000 at a debate. In an interview, he said, "Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less."

Sure, for the purposes of Obama's tax cuts, that 's the upper end of his middle tax bracket. But the president doesn't going around saying such a thing in that manner. Why? Because such a statement will strike many if not most voters -- Republican or Democrat, red state or blue -- as plain wrong.

Voters are weird when it comes to which facts and figures, which part of reality they'll latch on to. Consider the 46% who don't pay federal income taxes. Turns out the majority of that 46% who don't pay those taxes live in solidly red states. So which one of you is going to lay down money on Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi or Alabama swinging for Obama?

But when it comes to class, most voters consider themselves middle class -- whether they are or not. And they know damn well they're not making $200,000 to $250,000 a year. And they're not going to hear the "or less" part.

"Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less" is concise, simple and something that will strike a nerve at voters regardless of political party. And now it's all but lost in the current news cycle.

I'm not saying it would have been a campaign-ender. It's going to take much more than that , regardless of what proclamations erupting from the fevered imaginations of easily excitable pundits.

But I imagine it will be landing a starring role in Democratic advertising this campaign season.

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