Will people on the dole vote Republican?
Mitt Romney will not go down as the most gifted wordsmith in American history. Of course, neither would either Bush who won three Presidential contests nor Eisenhower (one of the most garbled speakers of modern times) who won twice. Americans don't base elections on who is the most eloquent, though being a communicator helps.
Whenever someone starts a sentence the way I am about to, it is never a good sign for a candidate: what Mitt Romney meant to say was this.
Around 47% of Americans do not pay income tax. Those Americans, minus a few percent, are likely to support Obama's calls to raise taxes on those who do. That makes the challenge for Romney greater.
While what he actually said was garbled, and probably not as bad as the media has interpreted it, it was pretty bad. He implied that the 47% wouldn't vote for him. Further confusing matters, he mixed stats for income tax payments and those who received their income from government transfer programs. That isn't the only reason you don't pay income taxes (forward losses, income averaging, etc) and many people on a variety of government programs do pay income taxes.
Furthermore, many of those transfer programs aren't exactly pure welfare. Social Security and Medicare contributions were paid by most as well as income taxes. The same is true for other government retirement programs. Other than Medicaid and disability (SSI is part of Social Security but not usually retired citizens) those are the bulk of the dollars.
As for disability, there are many arguments but most of those who receive benefits have clearly proven to a judge that they are eligible. People often confuse, for example, people who use handicapped parking spaces for the disabled. After knee surgery, you get a parking space card but not disability from the government in most cases. Furthermore, many people get disability from private plans. Yet I hear, all the time, that so and so gets disability and doesn't deserve it.
I believe, having been through this as this area's congressman and with personal cases of people I know, that the government may be a little lax but not as much as popular perception is regarding the issue. I feel the laws may be a little lax about what people could perform but that is another question.
However, implying that people on disability, Medicaid, AFDC or food stamps are "deadbeats" was a bit much. It was especially ill-considered for a man running for President whose biggest problem is that he is perceived as a rich guy who can't relate to average people.
Will it cost Romney the election? No. A major reason is similar to Bill Clinton's moral behavior and lying. His supporters already knew he was, well, that way because of repeated problems through his whole life. They factored in that he was a good ole boy who lacked self-control in numerous areas, and "exaggerated" or "denied" a wide variety of things.
For Romney, we already know he garbles his English, can't explain well at times and is wealthy. So, if you are pro-life, how does this matter? If you are a gun owner, it doesn't change. Didn't Obama "smart mouth" in a San Francisco reception about we people who cling to our Bibles and our guns? What if you are someone concerned about our poor foreign policy or national defense? As you watch the Middle East, it seems more important than botched wording at a fund-raising reception. Or if you support Israel, and the current President doesn't have time to meet with the head of Israel but again goes on David Letterman's show? And then, of course, there are the little issues: the exploding deficit and the highest unemployment stretch since the Great Depression. Oh that's right, those little things.
The question is whether Romney can best avoid America becoming like Greece and other nations facing catastrophic economic disasters, not whether he's insensitive.
If you are on the dole, and could work, chances are you are more concerned about having someone as President who can best help you get a job as opposed whether you like the guy a lot. When going in for heart surgery, I want the surgeon to be able to fix my heart, not be a nice guy to chat with.
So, overall, this is another blip in a closely divided election. And one exaggerated by a press that is not exactly neutral. But the fundamental issues remain and I believe it will likely stay close. There are a lot of events to play out. The stock market gains may be helping Obama more than what Romney garbled at a fund-raising reception. International issues loom huge right now, as a risk/gain factor in this election (and for the world's peace).
Still, it was a really stupid mistake. But it is time to move on and get to the real issues.