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Romney tries to get on track after video remarks

By Steve Peoples

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18 2012 10:41 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is seen with Policy Director Lanhee Chen on their campaign plane as it flies to Salt Lake City, Utah, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012.

Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney sought to get his campaign back on track Tuesday after the revelation of a video in which he said nearly half of Americans "believe they are victims," are dependent on the government and bound to vote for President Barack Obama. The Obama campaign worked to spread the quotes to any voters who hadn't already heard them.

Obama himself headed for New York for an appearance on David Letterman's TV couch and a fundraiser with Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Romney planned no apology but was expected to respond to questions about the video by reinforcing the reaction he delivered Monday night: that Obama favors "a government-centered society" with people dependent on public support.

Obama's campaign, seeing an opportunity to build on its earlier efforts to cast the Republican as out of touch with average Americans, emailed a fundraising appeal to supporters and posted a video online asking voters to watch Romney's comments and respond.

"I actually felt sick to my stomach," one woman says in the web video.

Another woman says, "That's not somebody who I'm thinking, 'Oh, I want him as my president.'"

Romney advisers concede the video came at a bad time — seven weeks before Election Day and with early voting beginning in two dozen states by this weekend. They acknowledge the remarks may dominate news coverage for days but dispute the notion that Romney's comments could fundamentally change the election.

The unscripted moment was reminiscent of the 2008 campaign, when Obama was caught telling the wealthy wing of his party at a private fundraiser in San Francisco that some residents of depressed rural areas get bitter and "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."

In the Romney video, recorded at a Florida fundraiser in May, the candidate says 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes and believe they are entitled to extensive government support. "My job is not to worry about those people," he said.

After the video posted late Monday afternoon on Mother Jones magazine's website, Romney told reporters that while his comments were "not elegantly stated," he stood by his remarks.

"Those who are reliant on government are not as attracted to my message of slimming down the size of government," Romney said in Costa Mesa, Calif., doubling down on his statement.

Romney running mate Paul Ryan focused on the limited-government argument while campaigning in New Hampshire, without mentioning the video. He mistakenly called it the "Ryan-Romney plan" for a stronger middle class before correcting himself and promising the two would put Americans back to work rather than encourage dependency on government.

A pro-Obama super political action committee quickly pushed up the air date for a new television advertisement in response to the video.

The ad, from Priorities USA Action, was previously shown online and never mentions the Romney video because it was produced before it became public. But the super PAC says it believes the ad's message serves as a counter to the Republican nominee's words and bought time to begin airing it as early as Tuesday on stations in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

"Doesn't Mitt Romney understand we can't rebuild America by tearing down the middle class?" the narrator says. The group also is likely to start running new ads using Romney's words from the fundraising video.

Obama was told about the video Monday afternoon by staff traveling with him on a campaign trip to Ohio. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to say whether Obama had watched the video or to characterize the president's reaction to Romney's remarks.

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