One of the biggest questions raised by President Obama’s lackluster debate performance was why he neglected to mention Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remark, though he’s made the damaging video the focus of his recent campaign ads. Aides say that President Obama was prepared to raise the topic, and Romney had certainly prepared a response, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t mentioned. Now, thanks to Sean Hannity, we at least know what half of the exchange would have sounded like. In a celebratory post-debate interview on Fox News, the host asked Romney, “What would you have said if he did bring it up?” While Romney has never exactly disavowed the remark, apparently he was ready to try yet another strategy at the debate. “Well, clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of question and answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” Romney said. “In this case I said something that’s just completely wrong.”
He continued, “I absolutely believe however, that my life has shown that I care about the 100 percent and that has been demonstrated throughout my life. This whole campaign is about the 100 percent. When I become president it’ll be about helping the 100 percent.”
On the night the story broke, Romney said that his point that nearly half of all Americans “believe that they are victims” was merely “not elegantly stated.” A few days later, he tried a different tactic: pretending he’d said something entirely different. If Obama had only given him the chance, he would have explained that he’s subsequently realized he was totally off the mark, and gone on to deploy sensitive Mitt. On Hannity, Romney went on to reiterate that he’s committed to helping poor and middle-class families. “The rich will probably do fine even if he’s reelected,” he said. “It’s the middle class that’s in real trouble if President Obama is reelected — and the poor! I want the poor to get into the middle class. So many have fallen into poverty by virtue of his policies.”
On Thursday, an anonymous Obama aide gave more credence to the theory that the president purposely didn’t attack Romney on the “47 percent,” suggesting to the New York Times that he didn’t want to give his opponent an opportunity to share his finely honed retort before a TV audience of 67.2 million. At this point it doesn’t seem like admitting that he was wrong can undo all the damage caused by the video, but now Romney can gauge the reaction to his response. If it doesn’t work, he can always try out a new strategy at the next debate.