Michael Brendan Dougherty unearths video of Mitt Romney at a town meeting from last October saying something strikingly similar to his “very poor” remark that generated all the noise yesterday. In the October rendition, he didn’t committ the “gaffe” portion of yesterday’s comments, i.e. the suggestion he’s “not concerned” about the poor.

But in some ways, this version is even worse. He flatly states that the middle class need more help than the poor do, because the latter have their safety net. It’s a clearer glimpse into Romney’s thinking:

A fuller version of the video is right here, at around the 20 minute mark. Here’s the quote:

“In our country, the people who need the help most are not the poor, who have a safety net; not the rich, who are doing just fine; but the middle class.”

In some ways this is an even starker version than yesterday’s was: Romney doesn’t qualify this by saying the safety net needs repair, as he did yesterday. Thanks to the saftey net, the poor are less in need of help than middle class people are.

This will further aggravate conservatives. Their line on Romney’s quote is that he’s betrayed a lack of fluency with the conservative argument — that their economic ideas are the best way to free the poor from the state of government-imposed servitude that the welfare state traps them in.

Or as John McCormack put it yesterday: “The standard conservative argument is that a conservative economic agenda will help everyone. For the poor, that means getting as many as possible back on their feet and working rather than languishing as wards of the welfare state.” But Romney seems to be saying that the status quo, for the poor, at least, isn’t a pressing problem.

For liberals, of course, the notion that the poor are making out just fine, thanks to government largesse — and as a result need less help than the middle class does — is morally repugnant and deeply clueless. And of course there’s also the faint dog-whistling element — the appeal to the middle class on the basis that they’re the ones suffering most, and don’t let any pointy-headed bleeding heart liberal tell you otherwise.

At least we now know for sure that this is how the guy really thinks.

(H/T Andrew Sullivan)