Desperate times make desperate measures appealing. The Romney campaign and its allies, sensing lasting damage from their candidate's dismissal of 47 percent of the voters, including swaths of likely Republican votes, has decided use this as a teaching moment. Exhibit A is a 1998 video of Barack Obama that is worth a look. The Romney campaign has focused on the part where Obama says, "I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot." (The context in which he makes that conclusion is interesting because it shows, unlike Romney, a consistent philosophy that believes government, despite its considerable flaws, can be a catalyst for opportunity.)
Some Republicans believe to way to defeat Obama is to convince people that he is a socialist, in contrast to Romney, who believes in free enterprise and individual initiative. Ezra Klein has already pointed out the fallacy here: Romney believes in redistribution himself through his support of food stamps and other social programs. But while Mr. Klein comes at redistribution from top to bottom, I would come from the opposite direction: Mitt Romney supports the massive wealth transfer that has been enabled by government policies — most notably the tax code — and that has been accelerating over the past three decades and has always grown more under Republican administrations. Indeed, Romney’s economic plan is based on further tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Barack Obama wants this debate, and my impression is he will win it. He can whipsaw Romney from bottom to top. “Which redistribution programs do you want to get rid of, Mr. Romney? Social security, Medicare, aid to veterans? Many of those people are in your 47%. And how many more tax cuts do you think the wealthy need? How low should their tax rates go? You talk about half the population as if they are just dependents, and you talk about the wealthy as needing more support, but I never hear you talking about what I think this race is all about: the middle class."