February 1st, 2012
12:51 PM ET
11 years ago

Romney says 'poor' comment needs context

(CNN) – Aboard his campaign charter plane Wednesday, Mitt Romney sought to clarify a remark he made earlier in the day on CNN about not being "concerned about the very poor" saying his words were being taken out of context.

Talking to CNN's Soledad O'Brien, Romney - perhaps ineloquently - explained his campaign's focus on the middle class, stating that there are programs to help the poor and the rich are doing well on their own.

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"I'm not concerned about the very poor," Romney said. "There's a safety net there, and if it needs repair I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the heart of America, the 95% of Americans who are right now struggling."

Responding to reporters' questions during the press availability on his plane, Romney made sure to put the quote in the correct context.

"No, no, no, no," Romney said. "You've got to take the whole sentence, all right, as opposed to saying, and then change it just a little bit, because then it sounds very different. I've said throughout the campaign my focus, my concern, my energy is gonna be devoted to helping middle income people, all right? We have a safety net for the poor in, and if there are holes in it, I will work to repair that. And if there are people that are falling through the cracks I want to fix that."

Romney explained further, saying his campaign has always been about helping the middle class.

"Wealthy people are doing fine," Romney said. "But my focus in the campaign is on middle income people. Of course I'm concerned about all Americans - poor, wealthy, middle class, but the focus of my effort will be on middle income families who I think have been most hurt by the Obama economy."

Romney conceded there were holes in the safety net for poor Americans, and acknowledged it was the government's responsibility to help find the systems' deficiencies.

"I'm sure there are places where people fall between the cracks," Romney said. "And finding those places is one of the things that is the responsibility of government. We do have a very ample safety net in America, with Medicaid, housing vouchers, food stamps, earned income tax credit. We have a number of ways of helping the poor. And yet my focus and the area that I think is the greatest challenge that the country faces right now is not, is not to focus our effort on how we help the poor as much as to focus our effort on how to help the middle class in America, and get more people in the middle class and get people out of being poor and becoming middle income."

Romney has made the point on the trail over the past several months that his campaign is focused on helping middle class Americans find jobs rather than helping poor Americans who he says already have plenty of help. Romney hadn't gone as far as saying he was "not concerned" about the poor.

Campaigning in South Carolina ahead of the state's primary, Romney actually said he was concerned about the poor, before reiterating that his campaign wasn't focused on wealthy people.

"I'm concerned about the poor in this country," Romney said on January 13. "We have to make sure the safety net is strong and able to help those who cannot help themselves. I'm not terribly worried about the wealthiest in our society. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the vast middle class in our nation, the 90% or 95% of Americans who are having tough times."

Rivals, both Democratic and Republican, have long attempted to paint Romney as out-of-touch, given his wealth and career as a private equity executive. Romney has responded by saying he won't apologize for his success, pointing out his experience in the private sector taught him about job creation.

CNN's Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.

Also see:

Romney: Convention or bust

Santorum looks past Florida

New anti-Obama ad slams Solyndra 'fiasco'

Romney to receive Secret Service protection

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (349 Responses)
  1. Jake

    Get the middle class on their feet again and spending, and that will in time help the poor find jobs. Romney just understands the economy better than most, he has my vote.

    February 1, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  2. FitchGetz

    Wow......he is THISCLOSE to uttering...."Let them EAT cake"..........

    February 1, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |

    I read the whole statement and STILL WANT VOTE FOR THAT IDIOT!! I live in MIchigan and he'll never take this state.. It belongs to OBAMA!!!!! He's dishonest already hiding money all over the place and he deserves to be President now.. LOL!!!

    February 1, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Mitt Romney: A guy who thinks $350,000 made from speaking fees is pocket change, "not very much", and for whom a $10,000 bet is just a casual bar bet over a trivial subject. Sure, he understands the everyday struggles of Americans.

    February 1, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    Romney is correct in one sense: the middle class are the key when you discuss the economy. What the middle class is most concerned about is ending up needing to use the social safety net. Romney's proposals so far have not been geared towards allaying the fears of the middle class, but granting so-called " job creaters" a wish list of deregulation priorities. De-regulation and a lack of enforcement is what led this to hit the middle class so hard in the first place: why would we even think to going back to a mindset that extolls turning your back on your business responsibilities as a virtue? Its an abdication of responsibility that flies in the face of everything this country has ever stood for, and Mitt keeps showing how little he understands about this country.

    February 1, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  6. monte112

    Mitt Romney: A guy who thinks $350,000 made from speaking fees is pocket change, "not very much", and for whom a $10,000 bet is just a casual bar bet over a trivial subject. Sure, he understands the everyday struggles of Americans.

    February 1, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  7. Hypocrisy


    If more Americans are on food stamps today and out of a job its because of the failed, ineffective and misguided economic policies of the GOP. And that is the failed, ineffective and misguided economic policies that Mitt Romney proudly adheres to and continues to support even today. You rightwing idiots!

    February 1, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  8. Amanda

    Politics and muck-raking journalism at its best! Didnt' care for him before this statement, don't care for him now....

    February 1, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. Disgusted

    Mitt wrote a NY Times op-ed recommending that GM, the great maker of the middle class, go belly up. That's his truth. And to JoAmerican - USA tax rates have been incredibly low for years. Why aren't the "job creators" taking advantage of that and investing in America by creating jobs? My theory: because they will do anything to thwart Obama, including harm the nation and its citizens. It's practically treason.

    February 1, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  10. Reagan Republican

    Nice try Vinney47SLC, but the logic is flawed and our own Republican actions do not support your interpretation of what Romney meant. The problem is no one knows what Romney means not even Romney. Things are to get wierder and crazier with Romney as we approach the general election.

    February 1, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. wittynotes

    The middle class of ten/15/twenty years ago is today's poor. How can a family of four live on 50K a year and still be called middle class, catering to the needs of the real poor and the very rich through taxes for welfare and corporate welfare?
    Mitt is clueless.

    February 1, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. A Texan

    Notice DC has become a sewer.... and all the rats are scrambling to get there !!!!!!!

    February 1, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "I'm concerned about the heart of America, the 95% of Americans who are right now struggling.""

    15% of Americans live below the poverty line. Look it up. Way to understate the problem, Mittens...yet another bang up job from Captain Can't-Relate.

    February 1, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  14. monte112

    No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

    February 1, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. Jen

    I understand perfectly what he is saying. However, you have to understand the logical thought progression. The poor do have safety nets. How long and how much they should have those safety nets is a totally different discussion. But if we don't focus on helping our middle class there will be no place for the poor to move up. Hence the reason he is focused on the midddle class. Getting people employed (not underemployed) and on the path to self sufficiency. It is a shame so many people on this site don't get it.

    February 1, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  16. historicalaccurancy

    Given that Massachesetts was 47th in the country in creating new jobs when Romney was governor, it's unclear to me how he is going to help the economy produce jobs anyway. His comments about the poor are just indicative of a lack of connection with the 99%.

    February 1, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. SAM

    Finally Truth reveals Roomeny..I know that a person with 250 Million won't understand the plight of poor..The same people who picks ur grabage, cut ur lawn and because the same people who has to live pay check to paycheck..Ya a perosn like u won't understand that...Good Luck with ur Presidency..AMERICANS will become world's DUMPEST if we elect YOU as our President...

    February 1, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. PaulC

    In case there was any doubt please be assured that Romney really doesn't care about the poor.
    If you want to see how really rich the 1% can get just vote Republican.

    February 1, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. GM

    Mitt Romney makes my skin crawl - underneath the veneer there is a elitist robot devoid of any honest compassion for " your tired, your poor, your huddled masses"

    February 1, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  20. teeekay

    Now Gingrich will have to call Mr. Romney as the best food stamp president because Romney is going to mend the safety net !!!!

    February 1, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. carly

    This clown is not fit to run a grocery store.

    February 1, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  22. What he actually said

    Essentially, he said that he doesn't care about the very poor because they don't vote. The rich make up such a small amount and they will vote for republicans anyway. But, the people I need to appeal to is the "middle class" in America and I will help them because they represent such a high number of people.

    February 1, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  23. BostonLegal02110

    With all due respect, Mr. Romney, you had the perfect opportunity to focus on helping those in the middle class during your tenure as Governor of our Commonwealth, and you didn't! Although it was one of your many unfullfilled campaign promises!

    Hopefully soon we will have Elizabeth Warren fighting for us in the Senate, a true defender of the middle "class"!

    You could learn a few things from her, if you didn't have so much to lose!!

    February 1, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  24. jo an

    How can anyone believe a word this man says? He is clinical...needs help big time...there is a term for people who cannot get the 'truth' out....Romney is pathetic...

    February 1, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  25. donna

    I have never seen the Republican party in as worse shape as it is this year. C'mon - Romney is their nominee?? He will lose to Obama and the party will be swept out of the house and senate. They will lose to Hillary in 2016, and her 2nd term as well, all because they decided to pick "Richy-Rich" as their candidate, lol!

    Prediction: USA will be in the hands of Democrats until at least 2024. By then the Republican Party will no longer exist.

    February 1, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
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