The Emotional Power of the “47 Percent” Comments Explained

<a href="http://www.zumapress.com">Pete Marovich</a>/ZUMAPress

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Looks like Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks—in which he said that supporters of the president didn’t pay income tax and felt “entitled” to such luxuries as food and health carewill not be fading into obscurity anytime soon. A recent Obama campaign ad capitalizes on the comments, which Romney made in a fundraiser caught on video and released two weeks ago by Mother Jones. Polls show that Americans aren’t fond of Romney’s sentiments. That has translated into a pretty stark shift in the Republican challenger’s election hopes.

Now, the Washington Post writes that Romney’s comments are “taking a toll” more than other gaffes he’s committed, like saying he likes “being able to fire people who provide services to me” or knows what it’s like to worry about getting a “pink slip,” or like the $10,000 wager he tried to make with Texas Gov. Rick Perry mid-debate:

In the two weeks since a surreptitious video of the remarks surfaced, they have pierced the national consciousness in a way that few blunders do. In the closing stretch of the presidential campaign, the moment has become a defining element of Romney’s candidacy.

Why the sticking power? Because it hits people on a personal level. Republican strategist Alex Castellanos told the Post, “You inform with reason, and you persuade with emotion. [Democrats have] made the rational case that Romney’s policies would hurt the middle class, and this is the emotional counterpart.”

Also, this was no gaffe in the usual sense. Democratic strategist Robert Shrum told the Post many voters have likely concluded: “Wow, that really is the real Romney.”

Of course, the number 47 is going to loom large in the debates. Romney’s apparently been rehearsing some “100 percent” lines. But really, it’s not the kind of comment you can wiggle out of. Said one Romney adviser to the Post: “Trying to explain it is not helpful.”

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate