Political Animal


February 01, 2012 11:25 AM Mitt and Po’ Folks

By Ed Kilgore

They say a “gaffe” is when a politician inadvertently tells the truth, and Mitt Romney made a pretty big one this morning on CNN when he told Soledad O’Brien:

“I’m not concerned about the very poor…. We will hear from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor…. You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus…. The middle income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them.”

Now like everyone in politics, Mitt knows “the very poor” don’t tend to vote in big numbers, and when they do, they tend to vote Democratic. He also knows a lot of people who are objectively poor like to think of themselves as middle-class. And on top of that, he knows that the fidelity of his party to the interests of middle-class Americans is perpetually suspect.

But Mitt, Mitt, you don’t say these things out loud. Indeed, as your consultants will tell you when they stop gnashing their teeth at this remark, Republicans are supposed to respond to any question about the distributional effects of their policies by intoning “class warfare” and changing the subject.

It’s this tone-deafness that makes a lot of Republicans nervous about Mitt Romney as a general-election candidate. He often simply forgets which memo to bring up in his memory banks when he’s on the spot. This time, it was the polling memo, and that was a mistake.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on February 01, 2012 11:38 AM:

    He really said that? Wow. When you add it to the host of other insensitive comments he has made you wonder how it is he has become the Republican establishment darling.

  • golack on February 01, 2012 11:41 AM:

    He's trying to pit the middle class against the poor--that's the class warfare he wants. And then attack policies helping the middle class as targeted to the poor and "destroying the middle class", or "driving up the deficit" or "attacking 'job-creators'". But basically its the true politics of division...

  • 2Manchu on February 01, 2012 11:43 AM:

  • smith on February 01, 2012 11:43 AM:

    I think commenters on the left are mostly getting this wrong. The tell is that he said "very" poor, which is code for black. He's trying to appeal to working class whites who believe their opportunities are stymied because govt resources are drained by goodies given to undeserving (i.e., lazy) "very" poor people.

  • Robert on February 01, 2012 11:43 AM:

    "But Mitt, Mitt, you don’t say these things out loud."

    Sure you do Ed if you are running a campaign that is desperate to appeal to right wing voters in the Republican Party, many whom harbor racist beliefs and you are concerned about Super Tuesday in "Dixie". You do remember "Dixie" don't cha Ed? "Poor" is code for you know whom Ed. Thing is that Mitt's 'race baiting'could very easily be one more lie like everything else he has said since "I'm Mitt Romney and I want to be President". Or this may be what he really thinks, which I tend to believe. Who knows? He may not even know what he believes anymore. He is truly a pathetic puppet. But extremely dangerous.

  • Michael W on February 01, 2012 11:44 AM:

    In fairness, though, the quote was truncated. He said something along the lines that he's not worried about the very poor, the safety net will take care of them. He didn't acknowledge, though, that he and his party are trying to destroy that safety net.

  • gifgrrl on February 01, 2012 11:48 AM:

    In the quote I heard this morning, he said he's not worried about the poor because they have a really good safety net.

    Really good? Really, Mitt? I'd LOVE to see you try to survive on food stamps for just one month.

    If you all hear a grinding noise, it's me gnashing my teeth. I may not have any teeth left by Nov.

  • Hedda Peraz on February 01, 2012 11:50 AM:

    Bless your heart, Ed, the "poor" seldom vote, and never for us!
    (Which puts them in the same class as ne-groes and fe-males.)
    Thank God for Diebold. . .

  • Joe Friday on February 01, 2012 11:51 AM:

    "I'm not concerned about the very poor... We will hear from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor... You can focus on the very poor, that's not my focus..."

    Oh my.

    And we just witnessed how the economic agenda Willard supports shifted a large segment of the Middle-class down to being Poor.

  • rrk1 on February 01, 2012 11:53 AM:

    All this demonstrates is that Mitt-the-shit is a programmed stooge. He just can't remember which program he needs to run without a teleprompter. When left on his own he's inclined to tell the truth, and now we know what is obvious to anyone really watching him. The poor don't matter.

    Should anyone be surprised that an elite 1%er like Mitt would be insensitive to the hoi poloi at the bottom of the economic ladder? Hardly. He's comes from the same kind of privileged background as W, only without the strong religious ties (Bush wasn't 'born again' until he was 40). Romney made his money in true capitalist fashion by screwing other people. Bush got it from friends and relatives since he had other interests like alcohol and drugs. But they are both entitled elitists who care only about their fellow elitists.

  • Josef K on February 01, 2012 11:55 AM:

    Why do I expect to see this line repeated (hopefully over and over) by some forthcoming Gingrinch attack ad?

  • Ed, Watertown MA on February 01, 2012 12:01 PM:

    “When it shall be said in any country in the world my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want; the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness: When these things can be said, there may that country boast its Constitution and its Government”
    ¯ Thomas Paine, Rights Of Man

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on February 01, 2012 12:02 PM:

    smith's analysis, above, is probably on the right track. However, i don't know that the racial dog whistle will work as well as intended, because in swing states where working-class folks have been suffering, they may not have their ears tuned to frequency the whistle.

    The bigger problem is that it fits the narrative of Romney as spoiled rich kid who doesn't care about anyone but his own, which is Obama's biggest weapon against him.

  • scott_m on February 01, 2012 12:05 PM:

    This sentiment will resonate with a group of core GOPers. My hometown newspaper in Louisiana ran a piece about statewide cuts to the public hospital system, which will result in layoffs and the closing of rural clinics. Here are a couple of comments to that piece:

    Sounds to me that they finally understand that every part of government needs lots of excessive fat trimmed off. Its about time. If you walk through all tax funded establishments there is a huge amount of wasteful spending, wasteful positions and so on! It's time to trim out the waste. Sorry buts this is gonna hurt, but it will be better for the tax payer in the long run.

    It is not the state or governments job to take care of us. That is what is wrong with Bogalusa now,too many free programs for people who refuse to work for a living. Our once beautiful town is gone now thanks to socialism. Don't you people get it?

    To repeat, those people replying to it becoming harder to get medical care. Those folks are going to love red meat like "I'm not concerned about the very poor."

  • exlibra on February 01, 2012 12:08 PM:

    In '08, Obama had been criticized for concentrating on middle class woes and avoiding the subject on the issue of the poor. But, seeing the now emerging class of "novo-poor (formerly the middle class)", I sometimes think he was prescient; the true middle class is shrinking so fast, soon there'll be no difference between it and the poor.

    Of course, The Willard ought to be asked for his definition of "middle class" that he so wants to protect. My bet would be that it's something like what McCain considered "middle class" -- those whose yearly income is under 5 million dollars. Probably not the same thing Obama had in mind, when *he* talked about the "middle class" straining under various burdens. And, my guess would also be, that The Willard is not particularly worried about *that* part of middle class, either

  • Charles Lemos on February 01, 2012 12:19 PM:

    "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90%, 95% of Americans right now who are struggling and I'll continue to take that message across the nation."

    His lack of empathy and concern is obviously frightful but frankly typical of most in today's GOP. And this is, of course, from a man who thinks nearly $400,000 in speaker's fees is not very much money. Still what strikes me is that he thinks that no more than 10 percent of Americans are very poor. The percentage of Americans living below the poverty line last year was 15.1 percent, the highest level since 1993.

    Furthermore, about 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That is up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.

    We've really become two countries in terms of wealth, a small very rich elite and a comfortable professional class and then there's the other America where poverty is an increasingly entrenched way of life.

  • JR on February 01, 2012 12:21 PM:

    I'm increasingly convinced that Mitt is an operative for Obama 2012. His campaign appears designed to ensure that the President serves a second term.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on February 01, 2012 12:23 PM:

    scott_m: Since we don't expect Louisiana to be a swing state in the presidential election, it's relevant to ask how many swing-state working class folks think the same way. I hope not many.

  • scott_m on February 01, 2012 12:30 PM:

    E.O.C., I think Romney's shoring up his right-winger credentials right now and will worry about swing states once he's locked down the nomination. My point is that as much as people on this board find that kind of talk repugnant, we're not who Romney's trying to impress.

  • FlipYrWhig on February 01, 2012 12:30 PM:

    @ Equal : The Republicans ALL think that way. It's the reason why they're Republicans. They think Democrats take their stuff and give it away to _those_ people, and that Republicans stop that from happening. Rich Republicans think that way, middle-class Republicans think that way, and poor Republicans think that way.

  • BetweenTheLines on February 01, 2012 12:37 PM:

    Mitt has also declared he's not concerned with the very rich. Something about "they're doing just fine". This is just more of the same smarmy used-car salesmanship quality I've come to expect from Mitt.

    Mitt: This '03 Buick's a real beaut'
    Middle Class: What's it got under the hood?
    Mitt: Let me show you the over-sized cup holder
    Middle Class: But what about the engine?
    Mitt: Oh. Well, it has the most power in it's class and uses no gas. Here, let me show you the fold down arm rest, it's real leather.

  • boatboy_srq on February 01, 2012 12:40 PM:

    1) He did say "very poor," which is dogwhistle not only for "black," but "lazy." Everyone knows hardworking industrious volk all make it into the middle class.

    2) According to the Reichwing, there is no "upper class;" "middle class" does, indeed, include the 1% and 0.1% (and 0.001% too if you insist on asking). There are elites, but those are industrial/philosophical (Socialists, actors, liberal/lamestream media personalities, scientists and other DFH parasites on the body politic). So Romney's comments are designed to include everyone not collecting huge cheques from Hollywood or the EPA or living high on the hog on food stamps into the 1% sphere.


  • Tomm Undergod on February 01, 2012 1:01 PM:

    Romney, the Demon Barber who gives a "haircut" only to the defenseless seems unaware that his use of "the Democrat party" is a tribute to Gingrinch and divisiveness. It certainly is not a term used by anyone who cares about Not going out of the way to be intentionally offensive to voters who might some day be lied into voting against their own best interests, rather than support any member of the Ridiculous (R) party. That kind of petty partisan pandering does, however, help him fit right in with the rest of the Insane Clown Posse and their preposterous unreality series of "debates."

  • j on February 01, 2012 1:05 PM:

    I used to have a dear friend, now departed, who was very kind and very socially conscious, when he spoke about greedy politicians he would always say (tongue in cheek)
    'Don't worry about the poor, if you ignore them they will go away' (As in -die)

  • ComradeAnon on February 01, 2012 1:17 PM:

    Translation: "Middle class, I'm coming for you. You're not the very poor yet"

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on February 01, 2012 1:20 PM:

    FlipYrWhig: If Romney's votes in 2012 come entirely from Republicans, I think Obama's in pretty good shape. Reminds me of the mass of polls the past few years showing that on most issues independents have moved toward Dems as Repubs have moved toward Crazy.

  • exlibra on February 01, 2012 1:21 PM:

    I'm increasingly convinced that Mitt is an operative for Obama 2012. His campaign appears designed to ensure that the President serves a second term. -- JR, @12:21 PM

    A photo has been circulating on Facebook these past 24 hrs (possibly longer, but that's when I started seeing it): all four Republican contenders, each in his corner. In the centre of the poster, this text: "The committee to reelect President Obama, 2012"

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on February 01, 2012 1:21 PM:

    And i'll even include "independents" who are Repub in all but name in that statement.

  • beejeez on February 01, 2012 1:28 PM:

    I get it that Mitt is handsome and has a lot of money. Is it just that those two qualities go together so rarely that someone in possession of both is considered to be fully qualified for high office?

    Because these aren't gaffes. Gaffes are when you say what you don't mean, or say what you do mean, but accidentally. Mitt had a chance to clarify his remark and he stuck to it. So he either doesn't care that people know he's a dick, or thinks that anyone who'd consider voting for him is past the point of caring. I don't know what's sadder.

  • lb 22 on February 01, 2012 2:00 PM:

    Aside from everything else that's appalling about that attitude, the logic that people who are middle class are the ones who are really suffering, whareas the very poor are apparently doing just fine, is a really hard one for me to wrap my mind around. It really is newspeak. War is peace, the poor are rich.

    For my part, I'm not so concerned about the megawealthy. Its the fantastically, unimaginably wealthy who are really struggling and need the most help right now.

  • dalloway on February 01, 2012 2:23 PM:

    Karl Rove, aka the Little Man Behind the Curtain, chose Mitt to be this year's Republican face man (you don't really think the last three Republican presidents actually ran the country, do you?) because, like W., he had the face, sounded somewhat less dumb and, best of all, had made a shitload of money in the "free" market, the sign of the godhead among Goopers. Poor Karl. He didn't realize there's something seriously wrong with the Mittbot 2012's brain circuits. I heard one of his programmers was named Paul Olinski... or something like that.

  • SYSPROG on February 01, 2012 2:24 PM:

    My problem with this quote is the MEDIA. Who really CARES that he doesn't care about the 'very poor'. It's the back of the hand that they have 'safety nets'. Oh Mitt? Would those be the same entitlements you and your ilk are trying to take away from the Moocher Society that you ALSO don't 'care about'?

  • Jamie on February 01, 2012 2:37 PM:

    hmm maybe we could have a presidential campaign where those running propose policies that will have to address problems we are actually having and the press discusses whether those policies would actually fix those aforementioned problems. naah, that will never happen

  • Madeleine Begun Kane on February 01, 2012 3:12 PM:

    Political Haiku of the Day:
    "I'm not concerned
    about the very poor," says Mitt.
    Accidental truth?
    Mad Kane's Political Madness

  • Kathryn on February 01, 2012 3:21 PM:

    Flash.....Jim DeMint, of all people, just called on Mitt Romny to rephrase his "poor statement." Mitt promises to be the gift that just keeps on giving, he's a verbal gaffe factory.

    As I was driving home from the grocery store around noon, I was treated to Mark Halperin pontificating about how the media should not take a statement such as this and blow it out of proportion. I wonder how Halperin covered Obama's statement at a fund raiser, as opposed to the Today Show, regarding guns and religion, doubt it was hands off.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on February 01, 2012 3:21 PM:

    As a member of the funding wing of the republican party, I say it is about damn time we have a candidate who is not afraid to express our scorn for the peon classes!

    I fully respect Mitt Romney for his truthfulness in this area. I am pleased that Mitt expresses concern for the middle class of he is a member! I am also ok for Mitt Middle Class Quarter-Billionaire Romney expressing some empathy for the lower classes composed of those who are merely millionaires.

    Go Mitt! You are my man! If anyone can screw the peon class, Mittens can!

  • bob h on February 01, 2012 3:30 PM:

    He evinces concern for the struggling middle class, but when disaster strikes them and they are plunged into the poor class, he no longer cares about them? Makes a lot of sense.

  • lb 22 on February 01, 2012 6:58 PM:

    bob h,

    But dontcha know, someone who is middle class stays middle class, even when they go bankrupt. A middle class person joining the really poor would be like a white person becoming black.

  • CyraNose59 on February 01, 2012 8:02 PM:

    Came to comment, but in reading through earlier posts here, I saw that Michael W has already expressed my thoughts: i.e. that Mitt claims there's a safety net, but stops short of reminding folks that both he andhis party are working very assiduosly to dismantle the "safety net".

  • Tramey on February 01, 2012 10:18 PM:

    "We will hear from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor…" so said Mitt. Most people focused on the poor part. But I live in Massachusetts when he was gov., and I'm pretty sure he never called us the Democrat Party then... pandering jerk.

  • rick on February 01, 2012 11:13 PM:

    We knew all along that the GOP has no concern for the poor; never have and never will. That was the only honest part of Romney's statement. His sudden "concern for middle income" Americans is where he loses all credibility. Since when did any plank in the GOP platform show any concern for the middle class. Blue collar, middle income Americans vote against their self interest every time they cast a vote for a conservative Republican canidate. Romney has been an unabashed advocate for the 1% and now we're supposed to believe he cares about the middle class? His slime is slimy. GOBAMA!

  • Sammy on February 02, 2012 6:35 AM:

    Wonder how many "very, very poor" (meaning black) people live in rural Appalachia where many still struggle with abject poverty?

  • nvlawyer on February 02, 2012 10:47 AM:

    What a hypocrite. He really is a flip-flopper. I mean he gives millions in taxes and charity that ultimately help the poor through entitlements and charitable programs, but the says he doesn't care about the poor. Every year he gives millions. It just goes to show you that you can't trust this guy. What a contradiction he is. If he didn't care, then it would be more consistent to not give half of his dollars to taxes and charity. I think this author is right. Mitt needs to stop paying taxes and giving to charity to put his actions together with his words.

    Or then again, maybe this author and others are just trying to spin a ridiculous, out-of-context statement to support their class warfare.

    Of course, Mitt didn't intend that spin. His actions DO speak louder than the spin.

  • michael on February 02, 2012 1:13 PM:

    NVLawyer, exactly how do contributions to the groups he gives to help the poor? I will give partial credit for the Center for Pediatric MS and Homes for Our Troops, but the US Equestrian Society? Harvard Business School? the George W. Bush library? And, of course, the LDS.

    Keep trying, you might be able to make a point through sarcasm someday.

    "Part of the reason for the high rate of giving is Romney’s contributions to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church. According to the church, members are expected to tithe 10 percent of their income. In Romney’s case, in 2010 he gave $1.5 million, closer to 7 percent of his adjusted gross income. In 2011, he gave $2.6 million, or 12.4 percent of his income.

    But Romney and his wife also gave a considerable amount of money – some $1.5 million in 2010 and $500,000 in 2011 – to other charities, mainly through the Tyler Charitable Foundation, apparently named for a street Romney and his wife lived on in Belmont, Mass. In 2010, the foundation had more than $10 million in assets.

    In 2010, the largest beneficiaries of the Tyler Charitable Foundation included the Mormon Church ($145,000), the Friends of George W. Bush Library ($100,000), and the Center for Treatment of Pediatric MS ($75,000). However, the foundation also made contributions to organizations including the US Equestrian Team Foundation ($10,000), Harvard Business School ($10,000), and Homes for Our Troops ($20,000).

    In past years, some of Romney’s contributions have gone to conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Becket Fund (for religious rights legal aid), and the Federalist Society, which seeks reform of the current legal system. In 2007, he wrote a check to Citizens for Limited Taxation, a Marblehead, Mass., organization that strives to limit taxes and the size of government"

  • me on February 02, 2012 9:15 PM:

    from the daily howler:

    his is what Mitt Romney said, according to Kilgore. We’re using Kilgore’s ellipses, his marks of deletion:
    “I’m not concerned about the very poor…. We will hear from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor…. You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus…. The middle income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them.”
    That is what Mitt Romney said, as “quoted” by Ed Kilgore! In truth, that presentation would simply be funny, if it weren’t so pathetic and sad. Have you ever seen anyone work so hard to remove the sense of what somebody said? We might as well cut words from magazine covers and paste them together on a page, the way it’s done in crime movies.