House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s dismissal of nearly half of the American electorate as government-dependent victims who will never support his candidacy could work to swing key House and Senate races, as well as the presidential election.
Hoyer’s comments came as Democrats worked to press their attack over Romney’s comments to high-dollar donors at a fundraiser in May, and Republicans worked to pivot to another newly released video of President Obama explaining at a conference 14 years ago that he at times believes in redistributing wealth.
The campaign trail debate returned to Capitol Hill Wednesday, as Congress briefly returned to town for a final few days of business before breaking at the end of this week until after the election.
Hoyer said Romney’s comments represented not just his own opinion but that of the entire Republican party.
“I think what’s happening is that the American people, particularly the middle class in America are getting a clearer and clearer picture that the Democratic party is on their side and the Republican party is not,” he said. “I think it’s going to be helpful in our House races, in our Senate races and, clearly, in the presidential race.”
“It’s got to help us in every swing district in America,” he added. “Because a lot of those swing districts are not Democrats — they may be registered Democrats — they’re not Republicans, they may be registered Republicans — they are looking to find the party that cares about them, their interests and their future.”
Few expect Democrats to pick up enough seats to take control of the House in November. But there are 66 Republicans running in districts that voted for President Obama in 2008, and Democrats are working to make the contest for the chamber more competitive. And control of the Senate remains very much up for grabs.
Sensing Romney’s vulnerability, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) also devoted his daily floor speech to the Republican candidate’s remarks.
“For months I believed Mitt Romney wanted to be President of all the United States of America. This week we learned Mitt Romney only wants to be President of half the United States of America,” he said in a scathing and at times sarcastic address. “If Mitt Romney were President, he wouldn’t waste time worrying about the 47 percent of Americans who he believes are ‘victims’ — who Romney says are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility.’ He’ll only worry about how the other half lives.”
Some Republicans echoed Romney’s defense of the remarks, arguing that they were inartfully phrased but nevertheless highlighted the election choice between growing the government and people’s reliance on it and encouraging private sector growth.
They argued the newly released Obama video crystallized that choice.
“It’s more insight into what he [Obama] views government’s role as,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a key Romney surrogate. “He views government as distributing a limiting economy among our people. As opposed to viewing government’s role as creating conditions for the economy to grow and everyone be better off.”
He compared the video to the “Joe the Plumber incident” in 2008, when video caught Obama telling Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
Despite Republican nerves about recent polls that have showed Obama opening leads in key swing states, Rubio argued the race “remains unchanged.”
“I think really unchanged. It’s a close race. It’ll be close until the day of. We’ll be wondering until the night before who will win, and I think we won’t know until late at night the day of who won,” he said. “I’d rather be us than them right now.”