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Romney attacked for Obama ‘gifts’ gaffe

Nick Chiles

In a continuing display of the cluelessness that led to his resounding campaign defeat, Mitt Romney last week told some of his wealthy donors that he lost because President Obama gave “gifts” to key constituencies like blacks, Hispanics and young people.

In effect, Romney was accusing the president of buying their votes, in a stunningly off-base and factually incorrect post-election analysis that he provided on a private conference phone call.

It was yet another campaign blunder for Romney’s team, which had been so sure of victory before the presidential election that they were actually shocked by the breadth of their defeat.

“The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them and be motivated to go out to the polls, specifically the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people,” Romney told hundreds of donors during a telephone town hall last Wednesday. “In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups.”

Some pundits have suggested that Romney was just giving his donors something to make them feel better after Romney raised $900 million in the election and had nothing to show for it — though he did offer them the possibility of publishing a regular “newsletter.”

But his remarks immediately reminded observers of the secretly recorded comments he made at a May fundraiser, where he told a small group of donors that 47 percent of the electorate was unlikely to vote for him because they paid no income taxes, were dependent on government and took no personal responsibility for their lives.

Romney’s “gifts” analysis came after his running mate Paul Ryan claimed that Obama won because of the turnout among “urban” voters — clearly a code word for black.

While political pundits and angry Democrats jumped all over Romney for his analysis, what was remarkable was how incorrect it was. In beating Romney by 2.5 million votes for a margin of 51 to 48 percent, which wasn’t nearly as close as most of the polls predicted, Obama destroyed Romney in many states with tiny black and Hispanic populations — such as Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Oregon.

Many of those states don’t have much in the way of an “urban” population.

Romney got beat soundly in predominantly white New England, which should have been his stronghold as the former governor of Massachusetts.

The hometown beatings didn’t stop with Romney. Ryan got crushed even in his decidedly non-urban and extremely white hometown of Janesville, Wis., which Obama/Biden won by 25 points. (And just in case Ryan might try to analyze the Janesville loss as a vote against Romney and not him, he also lost his congressional race — he ran for re-election as an insurance policy — in Janesville by 10 points, though he was able to squeak out the win with support from other places.)

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has become much more critical of the Republican Party post-election, expressed displeasure at Romney’s “gifts” analysis. Jindal is seen as a possible 2016 presidential candidate and is the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

“We’ve got to stop dividing American voters [and] go after every single vote,” Jindal said.  “Show that our policies affect every voter out there.”

Jindal also said though the party needs to modernize, he emphasized that it can reach an increasingly diverse electorate without becoming “a second Democratic party.” He said he believes the U.S. is still a center-right nation.

Jindal also told Politico on Monday that the GOP needs to “stop being the stupid party.”

During the telephone conversation, Romney explained that young voters were motivated by the administration’s plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest, the extension of health coverage for students up to age 26 on their parents’ insurance plans and free contraception coverage under Obama’s healthcare plan.

Romney further suggested that the free contraception coverage explained in part the greater numbers of college-age women in Obama’s coalition.

The extended insurance coverage, in particular, was “a big gift to young people,” he said, noting that they turned out as a “larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

Romney said Obama healthcare plan’s promise of coverage “in perpetuity” was behind the intensity of support for the president among African American voters making $25,000 to $35,000, as well as Hispanic voters.

“With regards to African American voters, ‘Obamacare’ was a huge plus — and was highly motivational to African American voters,” he said. “You can imagine for somebody making $25 — , or $30 — , or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free healthcare — particularly if you don’t have it, getting free healthcare worth, what, $10,000 a family, in perpetuity, I mean this is huge. Likewise with Hispanic voters, free healthcare was a big plus.”

“With regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for the children of illegals — the so-called Dream Act kids — was a huge plus for that voting group,” he said. “On the negative side, of course, they always characterized us as being anti-immigrant, being tough on illegal immigration, and so forth, so that was very effective with that group.”

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