Mitt Romney’s Secret Video: 5 Reasons It Hurts

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 17, 2012 – 5:07 PM

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama had to contend with a media firestorm when comments he made at a San Francisco fundraiser were covertly recorded and released to the public:

“People have been beaten down so long, they feel so betrayed by their government…it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”


Today, Mitt Romney may be facing his “cling to guns” moment.

In an exclusive video released by Mother Jones Magazine, a liberal publication, Governor Romney is seen at a fundraiser—reportedly after he clinched the Republican nomination—sharing his view of Obama voters:

“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…My job is is not to worry about those people.”


Later, he reportedly said:

“There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”


I’ll deal with the second quote first. The fact is that Mitt Romney is right—being born an American offers enormous advantages over people born in many other parts of the world.

But he should have known better than to ever utter such a phrase—something I refer to as a “seven-second stray”—since it would so predictably be used against him. That’s true even for “closed door” meetings, since candidates have little control over a rogue attendee who might secretly film unhelpful comments using their mini smartphone cameras. And given how the late Texas Governor Ann Richards used the “silver spoon” line so viciously against George H.W. Bush in 1988 (“silver foot,” actually) you’d think Romney would have learned his lesson.

But the first part of the quote is entirely in context. For Mr. Romney, his covert tape presents at least five problems:

  1. 1. Some of his support surely comes from people who don’t pay income taxes—a group he is now at risk of alienating.
  2. 2. It undermines his pitch that he, more than President Obama, is well-positioned to care for the middle class.
  3. 3. It will encourage other discouraged conservatives to question the effectiveness of his campaign (some conservative stalwarts have publicly castigated his campaign over the past few days), and will extend the “Romney can’t win” storyline.
  4. 4. The very nature of the covertly recorded video will support the narrative that he speaks one way in private and another way in public.
  5. 5. He appears to be saying that he disagrees that people should be entitled to “food,” and that he doesn’t worry about people who can’t earn it for themselves.

I’m curious to see how the Romney campaign responds to this latest off-message moment. I suspect they’ll start by attacking the mainstream media, but my hunch is that they’ll need something better to get past this latest embarrassment.

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Comments (8)

  1. By Anthony Palmer:

    Mr. Phillips,

    Good analysis as always. But I’d add one more point, and this is probably the most damning one of all:

    Mr. Romney is not a particularly likable candidate. He does not have a deep reservoir of goodwill with the public, so they will be less inclined to shrug this off. As a result, these “behind closed doors” comments will likely make voters trust him even less. This ties into the unreleased tax returns and “what else is he hiding” line of attack preferred by the Democrats.

    If voters don’t like you and don’t trust you, you’re left with someone akin to Richard Nixon.


    Unfortunately for Romney,the electorate can now see his heart. My wife, according to Romney, is one of “those people” about whom he does not care. She is a college trained professional who suffered a debilitating stroke 16 years ago and became incapable of resuming her job in a laboratory. I hope Americans are listening.

  3. By John:

    I am curious how this will play with one of Romney’s few strong demographics – retirees. It is my understanding that nearly a third of the people who “don’t pay income taxes” are retirees, many of which paid taxes for several decades of their lives.

    Yet they are conveniently roped into the conservative meme about Americans not paying income taxes because, frankly, it makes the figure seem more shocking.

    Is Romney really suggesting old people are deadbeats too? It’s kind of hard to deny it, and the ads practically write themselves.

    I’m sure my Republican-leaning father in Florida will be none to pleased to hear that.

  4. By DGarr:

    Goodbye, Mr. Romney.

    We don’t want to see you anywhere NEAR the White House.

    It is going to be a lot more than 47% of Americans who vote against you.

    You are not only cynical and vacant, you are frightening.

    Go back where you came from.

  5. By Tee:

    I would prefer Romney’s private remark over the one our “Commander-in-Chief” made to Medvedev. At some point we have to set aside hurt feelings and look at national security and what apologies and weak leadership is doing in the Middle East.

  6. By Jacqueline Goldstein:

    Excellent analysis, as usual

  7. By jack:

    Mr. Mclean, you and your wife have my deepest sympathy. However, the point is, how does your misfortune become an obligaton on the part of the government (taxpayers)? No one would think of having their neighbors pay their bills when they were sick. Instead, they go to the government and have them take the money from their neighbors for them.

  8. By Hannah:

    But Jack, if you have insurance, your neighbors – fellow investors in medical insurance – do pay for your medical bills when you are sick.

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