Mitt Romney has received more than his fair share of grief in the days since the publication of a secret video in which he says that 47 percent of Americans — including the poor and the elderly — view themselves as "victims" who are incapable of "taking personable responsibility or care for their lives." Of course, a flood of criticism was to be expected from Democrats and much of the media. But Romney could hardly have anticipated that Republican pundits would join the pile-on — and in some cases, with perhaps more venom than their liberal counterparts. It has gotten so bad that an exasperated Ann Romney turned her fire on conservative critics. "Stop it," she said. "This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring." Here, the five toughest Republican critics of Romney:
1. Peggy Noonan
The former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and longtime scribe for The Wall Street Journal has been relentless in her criticism of Romney. In a blog post earlier this week, she said an "intervention is needed" to save Romney's "incompetent" campaign. The nominee is "too small and pinched and narrow," and some voters are "starting to think Romney's a loser." In a column later in the week, she doubled down on her criticisms, saying she had called his campaign incompetent "only because I was being polite. I really meant 'rolling calamity.'"
2. Michael Gerson
The former speechwriter for George W. Bush also isn't happy with Romney. While less direct than Noonan, Gerson said Romney's comments on the 47 percent reflect an empty ideology that is both "simplistic and callous." By "appealing to a common Republican belief that the expansion of government has produced a class of citizens who live off the sweat of others," Romney unwisely joined a battle that less mature conservatives have wanted "ever since they read Atlas Shrugged as pimply adolescents." Some subtext for Gerson's Ayn Rand zinger: Paul Ryan has described Atlas Shrugged as his favorite book and intellectual touchstone.
3. David Brooks
The reliable gauge of center-right opinion in America has long been full of praise for Romney's entitlement reform plans. But he brought down the hammer on Romney this week, saying the candidate is "running a depressingly inept presidential campaign," wondering aloud, "When will the incompetence stop?" Brooks said Romney's comments were a "country-club fantasy," the type of thing only "self-satisfied millionaires say to each other." And in dissing the military veterans, students, and Social Security recipients who compose the 47 percent, Romney revealed that "he really doesn't know much about the country he inhabits."
4. Mark McKinnon
The former Bush aide said Romney's remarks reveal him to be a "deeply cynical man, who sees the country as completely divided, as two completely different sets of people." McKinnon said Romney "would likely govern in a way that would only further divide us." He also declared the race all but over, saying, "I honestly don't know what Romney can do to win support from voters he needs to gain a majority… How can anyone support a candidate with this kind of a vision of the country?"
5. William Kristol
The editor in chief at The Weekly Standard, a conservative stalwart, didn't hold back on Romney, describing his remarks as "arrogant and stupid." He then made it known that he'd rather have another candidate: "It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!)"
Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.