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Romney: Not focused on poor, they have safety net

By Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 11:44 a.m. HST, Feb 01, 2012


EAGAN, Minn. >> Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, confident after his Florida primary victory, ended up inviting criticism Wednesday when he said he's "not concerned about the very poor" because they have an "ample safety net."

Democrats and Republicans alike pounced and the GOP front-runner quickly sought to explain his remarks.

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no," Romney told reporters on his campaign plane when asked about the comments. "No, no, no. You've got to take the whole sentence, all right, it's mostly the same." He said his remark was consistent with his theme throughout the race, adding: "My energy is going to be devoted to helping middle-income people."

Despite that explanation, Romney's comments quickly became an immediate distraction from his message that he's more conservative than chief rival Newt Gingrich and from the double-digit thumping the former House speaker sustained in Florida. His campaign worked behind the scenes to provide context for the comment.

As the day began, the former Massachusetts governor told CNN from Florida: "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 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."

"You can focus on the very poor, that's not my focus," he said.

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign was quick to criticize.

"So much for 'we're all in this together,'" tweeted Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.

Some conservative pundits also labeled it a gaffe and said it was evidence Romney wasn't prepared to run against Obama.

"The issue here is not that Romney is right or wrong, but that he is handing choice sound bites to the Democrats to make him as unlikeable as he made Newt Gingrich," said Erick Erickson on the conservative RedState blog. And Jonah Goldberg at the conservative National Review Online said of Romney: "Every time he seems to get into his groove and pull away he says things that make people think he doesn't know how to play the game."

With criticism mounting, Romney flew to Minnesota and addressed a rally before heading to Nevada. He also boasted in flight about his "huge" Florida victory.

Gay rights protesters in Minnesota threw glitter at Romney before he took the stage, making him the latest candidate to be "glittered" by activists opposed to his position on gay rights. Romney, who opposes gay marriage, put a positive spin on the sparkle in his hair.

"This is confetti! We just won Florida," he said as he took the stage.

Romney, whose central challenge is winning over skeptical conservatives, told reporters on the plane that the fact that he performed strongly among conservatives in Florida made sense because he's more conservative than Gingrich.

"I'm not saying he's not conservative. I'm just saying he's not the pure conservative he would have people believe, and I think folks in Florida saw through that," Romney said. His campaign also started airing a radio ad in Colorado on Wednesday that says "conservatives across America are supporting Mitt Romney."

But Romney immediately was forced to clarify his comments about the poor.

Asked whether his words might strike some as odd, Romney said: "We will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor and there's no question, it's not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor." Romney added that he's more worried about the unemployed, people living on Social Security and those struggling to send their kids to college.

"We have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor," Romney said. "But the middle-income Americans, they're the folks that are really struggling right now."

Romney has broached the subject of the poor repeatedly on the campaign trail but until Wednesday had been more careful in his choice of words.

"I worry about the very poor and I want to make sure that our safety net is there," Romney said in New Hampshire in December, says the middle class are "the people I'm really concerned about right now."

Wednesday wasn't the first time that Romney, who made millions working in private equity, has been accused of insensitivity on matters of wealth. He once said "I like being able to fire people" when talking about having the ability to choose service providers. He also has declared that he knew what it was like to worry about being "pink-slipped" out of a job.

___

Associated Press writer Patrick Condon contributed to this report.







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busterb wrote:
Babababooooose BAboooose... If the top 1% are the very rich, he's saying only minimum of 4% are very poor? This is the country of big dreamers, but that is one of the biggest dreams there Mr. I Like to Fire People... If he is sincere about wanting to shore up the middle class, have him fire some super rich and bring them down to middle class level!
on February 1,2012 | 07:06AM
kainalu wrote:
It couldn't be more clear if it punched you right up side your head. Romney and the GOP represent the rich white - don't even have to be American - just rich and white. Heck, even the "white" is a minor requirement.
on February 1,2012 | 07:28AM
LanaUlulani wrote:


Actually that is NOT true.

This can be seen in the latest Florida closed primary exit polls of 4,729 voters.

From the exit poll of voters while they were leaving. Sampling of about 2,739 voters. They have to be registered Republicans in Florida which is a CLOSED primary state.



34% said they make less than $50,000 per year

35% said they make between $50,000 and $100,000 per year

31% said they make $100,000 or more per year.



http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/primaries/epolls/fl

Republicans are not all rich nor are they all WHITE. It is a FALLACY.





on February 1,2012 | 07:50AM
Pacej001 wrote:
A racist, inaccurate comment.
on February 1,2012 | 07:57AM
ss029 wrote:
Are you guys, busterb and kainalu, part of the very poor? I don't think so because you can afford to subscribe to the SA. You are most likely a part of the group that Romney is placing emphasis upon and this is how you respond? Do you really think that the 'very poor' need more assistance? I think it's better to concentrate on a larger portion of the population which in turn will also benefit the very poor. Just my opinion.
on February 1,2012 | 07:42AM
kainalu wrote:
A subscription to SA makes us RICH??? Darn. Somebody need to show me.
on February 1,2012 | 07:49AM
busterb wrote:
ss029, just because you side with the poor vs a .001%er you are in the wrong? I am far from poor, but still don't need Romney's help. I could make deposits in the Cayman's by myself.
on February 1,2012 | 12:55PM
LanaUlulani wrote:


Here comes the propaganda.

Good thing Hawai'i voters WILL NOT be the deciding vote.

President Obama the Hawaiian Wanna Be is far worse than Mitt Romney. Obama is the one who further devalued the American dollar. Once Obama is fired mothers and GRANDMOTHERS can finally come up for air!!!!!!!!!


on February 1,2012 | 07:46AM
honopic wrote:
So, how poor do you have to be for Mr. Milton Romney to be "concerned" about you? Unemployed, homeless, out on the streetc, catfood-eating, poor? Or 3-geneartions under one roof, with 8 jobs to pay for rent, food and utilities poor? Here we have another politician who never missed a meal in his life, probably couldn't tell you what a loaf of bread, gallon of milk and tank of gas costs, because he's always been rich. "Middle income" people, to him, are those making less than $100K a year. How "poor" do you have to be to vote for this guy? We know he's got the rich vote locked up.
on February 1,2012 | 12:14PM
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