Political journalists will busy for the next 49 minutes: the full secretly-taped video of Mitt Romney's remarks to donors at a private event in Boca Raton, Florida, on May 17 has been posted to YouTube by Mother Jones. Romney himself called for the release of the uncut video during his press conference last night so that we could all learn the full context for his comment that 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax and would be voting for President Obama. We are tuning in. We'll update shortly.
Updates: Here are the key parts so far:
- Romney's 47 percent comment in context. The question that prompted the answer was, "In the past three years, all people have been told is, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of you.' How are we going to do it? … to convince every body that you've got to take care of yourself?"
- Romney's answer was fairly reported. Mother Jones did not edit out sentences that would change the meaning.
- There is a lot of rich people anxiety. "My question is, why don't you stick up for yourself? You should be proud of yourself," another donor says. "Why is it bad to aspire to be wealthy and successful? ... Why is it bad to cut 30 jobs instead of 300?"
- Romney explains his entertainment options. Romney is skeptical of Saturday Night Live. "I was asked to go on Saturday Night Live. I did not do that in part that you want to show that you are fun and you’re good person, but you also want to appear presidential," Romney says. SNL is "slapstick." David Letterman, he says, "hates me because I’ve been on Leno more than him… they’re very jealous of each other as you know." He did The View twice, but it's risky. Aside from Elisabeth Hasselbeck, "The other four are sharp tongued and not conservative, Whoopie Goldberg in particular." As for other morning shows, he notes, "Regis is gone."
- Donor anxiety about poll numbers. To show her skills as a political analyst, a donor says, "I told George Bush Sr… I told him there was a guy named Clinton who's going to [inaudible -- but sort of sounds like 'challenge'] him. And he laughed." Then she lays out Romney's polling situation rather bluntly: "Women don't want to vote for you. Hispanics -- a majority of them don't want to vote for you. College students don't... On a mass level, what do you want us, this group, as your emissaries, what do you want us to do?" Another donor yells out later, "They say, 'He's a rich boy!' They say, 'He's a rich man!'" Romney repeatedly says it's early in the race, and people aren't paying attention yet.
- Romney talks poll numbers and message limitations. "Those people -- the five to six percent that we have to bring on our side? They all voted for Barack Obama four years ago. By the way, when you say to them, 'Do you think Barack Obama is a failure?' they overwhelmingly say no. They like him. But when you say 'Are you disappointed that his policies haven't worked?' They say yes. Because they voted for him, they don't want to be told that he's a bad guy, that he did bad things, that he's corrupt. They want to hear that they did the right thing but he just wasn't up to the task. They love the phrase that he's in over his head. You and I are people who spend our days with Republicans. And these people are people who voted for him and don't agree with us. And so the things that animate us are not the things that animate them. And the best success I have in speaking with those people is saying, You know, the president is a disappointment."
Romney's full 47 percent explanation:
"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.
I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49… he starts off with a huge number. These people who pay no income tax. 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. He'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them to take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
What I have to do is convince the five to 10 percent in the center..."