Mitt Romney disrupted his own "Florida victory lap" Wednesday when, while explaining his economic plan to CNN, he said he is "not concerned about the very poor." (See the video below.) Romney explained that the poorest Americans have a "very ample safety net," with food stamps, Medicaid, and more. "I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 to 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling," he said. Interviewer Soledad O'Brien suggested that people below the poverty line might think Romney's statement "sounds odd." Romney didn't back down, saying that if there are holes in the safety net, he'll fix them. Was Romney's point defensible, or was it a "monster gaffe" that will come back to haunt him?
This was a huge, costly gaffe: "Mitt, Mitt, you don't say these things out loud," says Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly. Everyone knows Republicans don't craft their policies to help the needy, but when it comes up you're supposed to scream "class warfare" and change the subject. It's precisely this kind of "tone deafness" that loses general elections.
"Mitt and po' folks"
Romney doesn't deserve grief over this: What Romney said wasn't "all that shocking" unless you twist the context, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. His point is that the poor have help and the rich don't need any, "but nobody has been looking out for the middle class, who have borne the brunt of the recession." Look, "I'm not a Romney fan, but this is hardly something I feel compelled to bash him over."
"Romney on CNN: 'I'm not concerned about the very poor'"
It's unfair, but this will haunt Romney: The way Romney's critics are spinning this is "misleading," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. He "clearly commits to keeping safety-net programs in place for the very poor." But it is a foregone conclusion that the "not concerned about the very poor" line "will end up in attack ads all year long, taken out of context. "The only question will be whether those attacks are limited to Democrats, or if other Republicans will join in on the fun."
"Video: Romney 'not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net'"
Watch the clip and judge for yourself: