Romney: “I’m not concerned about the very poor”
Romney says he’s “not concerned” about the very poor, but he may be missing out on a fast-rising demographic. (Screen capture: CNN.com)
No, this is not a headline from the Onion. This is an actual quote from Mitt Romney.
Coming off a sweeping victory, the Republican presidential candidate did exactly what a winner is not supposed to do: he stuck his foot in his mouth.
Romney said on CNN Wednesday morning that he is “not concerned about the very poor” when asked about a poll which indicated that when it comes to understanding the needs of average Americans he scored only 39 percent to President Obama’s 55 percent.
To put it in context his exact quote was:
I’m in this race because I care about Americans. 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, and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.
In a normal election few candidates target the poor. Middle-income Americans vote in larger numbers than lower-income Americans do. But Romney’s comments show that he fails to grasp the problematic fact that the number of poor Americans is rapidly rising.
A shocking 2010 Census report shows that nearly one in two Americans are considered poor or low-income.
According to the AP:
About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That’s up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.
Romney’s comment also waded into treacherous territory with Latinos, a group that is rising in political influence but was hit especially hard by the recession.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 6.1 million Latino children are poor, compared with 5 million non-Latino white children and 4.4 million black children. Another Pew study showed that, from 2005 to 2009, Latino household wealth fell on average by a stunning 66 percent.
Romney mentions that the very poor have a safety net; however, mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it.
When pressed by CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien about the strength of the safety for America’s poorest, Romney does say that “if it has holes in it I will repair them,” but these “holes” may turn out to be larger than Romney thinks.
Later in the day, President Obama spoke about policies to help families refinance their mortgages and stay in their homes. You can debate the economics of his proposals but we are in a presidential campaign and the visuals are telling.
Episodes like Romney’s quote this morning remind us that he will need to up his game for the general election.
View video here: CNN.com