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Romney Explains Comments Again As GOP Unearths Obama Video

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign fundraising event in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.
Charles Dharapak
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign fundraising event in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney took his effort to contain the damage from the video of his remarks about Americans who don't pay taxes to Fox News Channel Tuesday.

There, he acknowledged that some of those who don't pay federal income taxes are senior citizens and military service members.

Meanwhile, Republicans unearthed a recording of remarks Obama made in 1998 in which the then-Illinois state senator used the politically loaded word "redistribution."

As part of the back and forth, the Obama campaign Tuesday also demonstrated its intent to make it hard for Romney to live down the comments he made about 47 percent of voters who support the president. The campaign issued a video purportedly of people on the street who found Romney's comment offensive.

Romney has said his comments were poorly worded. He used that acknowledgement in his Fox News interview to do double duty: He extended it into an attack of Obama's management of the economy.

"There are a number of retirees and members of the military and so forth who aren't paying taxes and that's how it should be.

"But I do believe we should have enough jobs and 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. The good news is if you're doing well enough financially that you can pay a tax. And the problem right now is you see in this country so many people have fallen into poverty that they're not paying taxes they have to rely on government and the right course to help them is not just to have government handing out but instead government helping people to get back to good jobs."

Romney also mentioned the audio recording of Obama talking about redistribution to make the point he and the president held differing views.

"Frankly, we have very different views about America. The president's view, there's a tape that just came out today with the president saying he likes redistribution. I disagree."

The tape to which Romney referred was highlighted by the right-leaning Drudge Report.

In the snippet of Obama's 1998 remarks heard on the recording, the then-Illinois state senator speaks of the importance of pushing back against those who deny that government can play an effective role in improving the lives of the working poor. Obama says:

"I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources, and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody has a shot."

That comment was a reminder, at least for some, of Obama's "spread the wealth around" exchange with Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Also part of the daylong punching and counterpunching by the campaigns was a new Team Obama video. People, supposedly random voters, were asked what they thought of the Romney comments in which he said, "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what ... who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it ..."

One woman in the Obama campaign video pretty much sums up the reaction of the others:

"I think it sends a bad message. I think that it's not the person that I would want representing me."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.