Fumbling after big victories is starting to become a habit with Republican presidential contenders. After a grand victory in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich allowed Mitt Romney to ensnare him with nasty rhetoric. Fresh off of his big win in Florida Tuesday night, Romney made an unfortunate gaffe that, fairly or not, reinforces his Richie Rich image.
In an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, the former Massachusetts governor implied that he wasn’t worried about the very poor and that Democrats would do battle for them.
“I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it,” he said. “I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who are struggling right now.”
Romney, who later said his remarks were taken out of context, didn’t take advantage of the opportunity O’Brien gave him to explain what he meant.
“We’ll hear from the Democratic party [about] the plight of the poor,” he responded testily, adding that his focus is on the middle class.
It’s the kind of exchange that Democrats and his Republican rivals are likely licking their chops over to exploit although, technically, Romney is right. According to a report in The Atlantic, safety net spending grew by 50 percent between 2007 and 2010 and, in 2010, half of U.S. households received government benefits. And once critics stop gloating, some of what he said may start sounding familiar.
Almost from the start, Romney has made it clear that his real opponent has always been President Obama, who has made the plight of the middle class a signature theme of his re-election campaign. Throw in for good measure some Occupy references about the 90-something percent who are being left behind, and it becomes evident that Romney is gearing up for a duel with Obama over who's remedies will repair the widening holes in what was once a vibrant middle class.
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(Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)