Dominion of New York


September 18, 2012

Will Romney’s Latest Gaffe Really Cost Him the Election?

More articles by »
Written by: Kelly Virella

Mitt Romney. Photo Courtesy of Flickr/DaveLawrence8


n case you missed it, Mitt Romney put his foot in his mouth again, this time disparaging people who don’t pay income taxes. Mother Jones posted videos of him grousing at a private campaign event, saying that he doesn’t care about those voters because they vote for Obama.

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 videos are Romney’s latest installment of outrageous gaffes, raising more premature speculation that his chances of victory are dead. writer Josh Barro says it is the final nail in his election’s coffin. I highly doubt it. The more likely scenario is that the candid audiotape will help him connect more with his base, who totally agrees with him, and pull in some angry anti-Obama independents.

That’s why Romney showed no remorse after the videos surfaced and the backlash began. Instead, during a press conference late yesterday evening, he defended himself, saying his remarks were “inelegant,” but true.


What Romney said was completely tone deaf and divisive, heartless even, and ironic.

As conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, said:

This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?

It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.

The irony is that while some of America’s non-income taxpayers probably did vote for Obama, a lot of them probably vote Republican too. That’s because 8 of the 10 states with the highest numbers of non-payers are red states, according to  The other reason is that some non-income tax payers are mega-rich. As the Daily Beast points out:

One big, rich exception [is]: the roughly 3,000 members of the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers—they earned more than $2,178,866 in 2011—who paid no federal income tax because they were hedge-fund managers, real-estate investors, or wealthy financiers whose income is derived from capital gains, which are taxed at very low levels.

Romney doesn’t connect well with people or speak well in public, but he’s smart enough to know that his candor would appeal to his base. And all he was doing in that room was bluntly articulating their shared political worldview. In case you haven’t noticed, those Republicans win a lot of elections — including the presidency.

When Republicans who pay no federal income taxes hear Romney, they’ll like him even more. If they’re rich, they’ll embrace him because he’s promising to make it even easier for them to avoid taxes. If they’re poor and receiving welfare payments — they’ve convinced themselves that they’re the deserving poor. They agree with Romney: It’s those other poor people — those who plan to vote for Obama — who should get off welfare and start paying taxes.

Romney’s remarks say a lot about him, but they also say a lot about us. Like it or not, the capacity of the electorate to be selfish and to blame others for our problems is endless.

About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


Official portrait from his tenure as US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.