(CNN) - Sen. John McCain on Wednesday compared a comment he made during his 2008 presidential bid to one made by his party's 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, which is similarly drawing heavy Democratic flak.
At the time, McCain later pedaled back on his comment.
Clips recorded secretly at a May fundraiser and released Monday showed Romney saying 47% of the electorate are dependent on government. He said they see themselves as victims, and would "vote for the president no matter what."
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Criticism from Democrats piled on. At a news conference Monday evening, Romney said the comments were "not elegantly stated.” His campaign has said the comments were aimed at criticizing expanding entitlement programs.
McCain, a high-profile supporter of Romney and a senator from Arizona, defended the candidate Wednesday on CNN's "AC360," saying the comments were being misunderstood.
"I don't think that's what he meant any more than Barack Obama meant when he said that people cling to guns and Bibles," McCain said. "There is things that people say - millions of statements every day.
"I don't know if you remember when I said the fundamentals of the economy are strong even though we're in a fiscal crisis - oh my god!" he continued, referencing comments that drew heavy criticism from Democrats four years ago.
"You know, there's been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street," McCain said. "And it is, people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times."
He made the remarks as the volatility on Wall Street consumed the campaign trail, and just hours after banking giants Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America.
McCain made his comments on September 15, 2008, meaning both his and Romney's 2012 comments hit the political cycle in mid-September.
Some might point to a difference in venue: McCain's comments were made at a campaign rally in Florida, while Romney's were made behind closed doors at a fundraiser.
The senator dialed back his comments in the face of heavy criticism, saying the "fundamental strength" was American workers and that the economic troubles were a result of excessive government spending as well as "greed, excess and corruption on Wall Street."
In his Wednesday interview on CNN, he defended Romney.
"I am confident that Mitt Romney cares about every American and … is obviously concerned about the growth of the welfare state," McCain said.