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Romney stands his ground on fundraiser comments

 

Mitt Romney continued to stand Tuesday behind his suggestion that he would have a tough time winning over those who pay no income taxes, pivoting in an afternoon interview to accusing President Barack Obama of supporting redistribution of wealth.

Romney said he was simply offering an assessment of how Obama was likely to receive almost half the vote at a fundraiser in May, which was surreptitiously recorded and publicized on Monday. Romney responded to a question by describing 47 percent of Americans as virtually automatic supporters of Obama because they are "dependent" upon government and pay no income taxes.

After a secretly recorded tape emerged showing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney making controversial comments at a fundraiser, politicians and pundits weighed in. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

"We were, of course, talking about a campaign and how he's going to get close to half the vote," Romney said of that claim during an appearance this afternoon on FOX News. "I'm going to get half the vote, approximately. I want to get 50.1 percent or more. And frankly, we have two very different views about America."

The video, first publicized by the liberal magazine Mother Jones, has quickly overshadowed other issues on the campaign trail and given Democrats fodder for their claims that Romney's policies are uncaring for the middle class.

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Recognizing the potential impact of the firestorm, the Romney campaign hastily arranged a press conference Monday evening to respond to the video. The Republican presidential nominee said his remarks in the tape were "not elegantly stated," but did not disavow the substance of the controversy.

According to the Tax Policy Institute, although 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income taxes, they do pay payroll taxes. And contrary to Mitt Romney's claims, those people are not living off the other 53 percent. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

Romney similarly sought to explain himself on Tuesday, asserting his message is unlikely to appeal to those who pay little or no income tax or rely on government assistance.

"I'm talking about the perspective of individuals who I'm not likely to get to support me," Romney said. "I recognize that those people who are not paying income tax are going to say, 'Gosh this provision that Mitt keeps talking about, lowering income taxes,' that's not going to be real attractive to them. And those that are dependent upon government, and those that think the government's job is to redistribute -- I'm not going to get them."

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd reports on a statement that may significantly damage Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

Romney also did clarify that he understands that military members and retired senior citizens -- two demographic groups who tend to favor the GOP in elections -- are among those who pay little or no income tax.

"Of course you're right. There are a number of retirees, members of the military and so forth who aren't paying taxes, and that's how it should be," he said. "But I do believe that we should have enough jobs and enough take-home pay such that people have the privilege of higher incomes that allow them to be paying taxes. I think people would like to be paying taxes."

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney comments on the controversial video of him speaking at a private fundraiser.

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Romney also referred repeatedly to a new video that was circulated by the Republican National Committee on mid-afternoon Tuesday featuring audio -- allegedly of Barack Obama -- sympathetic in 1998 to the concept of redistributing wealth.

Obama is allegedly heard at a conference asking "how do we structure government systems that pool resources, and hence, facilitate some redistribution -- because I actually do believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everyone's got a shot."

The audio, which was edited by the RNC, cuts out after that point and no additional context is provided.

Conservative blogs have nonetheless pounced on the clip as a rejoinder to the Romney controversy, and the Republican nominee used it Tuesday as evidence of a differing view from Obama's.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney defended his unguarded comments, secretly recorded at a private fundraising event in May and provided to the liberal magazine Mother Jones, that shows him speaking frankly about Obama's supporters. NBC's Michael Isikoff reports.

Romney: Secretly recorded remarks 'not elegantly stated'

"The president's view is one of a larger government. There's a tape which just came out today with the president saying he likes distribution. I disagree. I think a society based on a government-centered nation, where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money -- that's the wrong course for America. That will not build a strong course for America or help people out of poverty," Romney said.