Republicans Now Find Romney’s ‘47 Percent’ Sentiments Offensive

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Hey, he may be a robot, but that doesn't mean he has no feelings. Oh ... right. Photo: Justin Sullivan/2012 Getty Images

Rising stars in the GOP are quickly moving to distance themselves from Mitt Romney, since they only have 1,454 to do so before the 2016 election. Bobby Jindal kicked things off on Wednesday, saying Mitt Romney was "absolutely wrong" when he explained earlier this week that he only lost the election because of President Obama's "gifts" to women, minorities, and young people (which are sometimes referred to as "policies that improve Americans' lives.") On Thursday during the annual Republican Governors Association meeting, other GOP leaders tried to catch up. Florida Governor Rick Scott told Politico that Romney's comments were "inappropriate," adding, "It’s wrong, it’s not true." Iowa Governor Terry Branstad remarked, “I don’t think it’s helpful," and said it's time to stop making excuses. However, Jindal wasn't finished. On Thursday, he expanded his criticism of Romney's remarks, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Republicans won't win elections by "insulting voters." “If you want voters to like you, the first thing you’ve got to do is to like them first," said Jindal. "And it’s certainly not helpful to tell voters that you think their votes were bought. That’s certainly not a way to show them you respect them, you like them.”

Two senators and former Romney surrogates joined in the chorus of criticism, though they tried to soften the blow. "I don’t want to rebut him point by point," Marco Rubio told Politico. "I would just say to you, I don’t believe that we have millions and millions of people in this country that don’t want to work. I’m not saying that’s what he said. I think we have millions of people in this country that are out of work and are dependent on the government because they can't find a job." Kelly Ayotte said on MSNBC that though she doesn't know the full context, "I don’t agree with the comments." She added that Republicans need to focus on the future, saying, "I think the campaign is over, and what the voters are looking for us to do is to accept their votes and then go forward, and we’ve got some big challenges that need to be resolved.”

Picking apart Romney's postelection recap is awkward for some Republican leaders since they were much more forgiving when Romney expressed the same sentiments in the "47 percent" video. On Meet the Press in September, Ayotte downplayed Romney's comments, saying, “That certainly was a political analysis at a fund-raiser, but it’s not a governing philosophy." At the time Rubio said he merely wished Romney had framed his remarks “in a different way.”

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has been more consistent in her opinion of those who are allegedly mooching of the government. Amid the "47 percent" controversy she said she was happy there's a safety net for those living at the poverty level because they, "count just as much as anybody else." On Thursday after the conference, she reiterated that it was a "ridiculous statement to make," and said of Romney's latest, and possibly final gaffe, "That unfortunately is what sets us back as a party — our comments that are not thought through carefully." As a member of two groups Republicans hope to woo, it's likely they'll be paying close attention to her analysis — though it seems the bit about thinking before speaking hasn't sunk in yet. Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi, said at the Republican conference, “We’ve got to give our political organization a very serious proctology exam. We need to look everywhere.”