At the traditional time to release bad news, late in the day Friday, the Romney campaign released his 2011 tax returns. While apparently largely un-newsworthy, the returns were consistent with Romney's assertion that he regularly pays "at least 13% in taxes." In order to achieve that tax rate, however, Romney did not credit the full amount of charitable contributions he made. His campaign posted a statement from a trustee of Romney's finances:
The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the Governor's statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years.
Observers were quick to note that, by paying more taxes than legally required, Romney disqualified himself from being President, based on his own statement to ABC News in July:
So having apparently disqualified himself from becoming president, Romney set out on a quest for a perhaps equally elusive goal: the approbation of GOP strategists and commentators. As reported by the Associated Press, Romney's upcoming "'intense battleground state schedule'" is "designed to counter GOP criticism that his campaign is moving in the wrong direction."
Criticism from Republican commentators was frequent and tough during the past week, including questions about a seemingly mismanaged convention, revelations of internal strife inside the Romney campaign, and culminating with expressions of incredulity and dismay at Romney's remarks at a fundraiser characterizing an imagined 47 percent of the country who support Obama as "victims" who pay no taxes.
The 47 percent comment, wrote NY Times' David Brooks, in a scathing piece titled "Thurston Howell Romney":
... suggests a few things. First, it suggests that [Romney] really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?
It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. ... It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. ... The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees.
In other words, Brooks implies, they are Romney's constituency.
Peggy Noonan, who worked in the Reagan administration and now writes for the Wall Street Journal declared "Time for an Intervention"
The central problem revealed by the tape is Romney’s theory of the 2012 election. It is that a high percentage of the electorate receives government checks and therefore won’t vote for him, another high percentage is supplying the tax revenues and will vote for him, and almost half the people don’t pay taxes and presumably won’t vote for him.
My goodness, that’s a lot of people who won’t vote for you. You wonder how he gets up in the morning.
This is not how big leaders talk....
As for those workers who don’t pay any income taxes, they pay payroll taxes—Social Security and Medicare. They want to rise in the world and make more money. They’d like to file a 1040 because that will mean they got a raise or a better job.
They too are potential Romney voters, because they’re suffering under the no-growth economy.
... You have to have more respect than that, and more affection, you don’t write anyone off, you invite everyone in. Reagan in 1984 used to put out his hand: “Come too, come walk with me.”...
You know what Romney sounded like? Like a kid new to politics who thinks he got the inside lowdown on how it works....
Conservative godfather William Kristol, called Romney's remarks "arrogant and stupid".
This is economic determinism at its worst, going against the very message the Republican Party was trying to sell to the world during its quadrennial national convention last month. Over and over again, we heard speakers there talk about how their immigrant grandparents came to this country, worked hard, built "that," never asked for a handout, and as a result their descendants have enjoyed the American Dream of ever-upward mobility. What the 53/47 dividing line says, to the direct contrary, is that income status is a permanent political condition, defrocking all Americans of agency and independent thought.
And Kristol linked the word arrogant to commentary by The National Review's Jonah Goldberg noting the confusion in Romney's remark:
... the 47 percent of the people who are “locked in” to vote against him aren’t locked-in because they’re dependent on the government, freeloaders or because they don’t pay any income taxes. That 47 percent refers to partisan identification which has, at best, only a loose connection with income and tax-paying.
Kristol concludes: "It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down...)."
With friends like that ... it's no wonder Romney's presidential campaign strove to turn the page on a week of public stumbles and Republican hand-wringing.