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State of the race: Romney's 47 percent hits home in Utah

Published September 18, 2012 2:28 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

>Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's offhand comments about the non-tax-paying, victim-playing, entitled 47 percent of America could continue to haunt his campaign until Election Day. Democrats will make sure of that.

The remarks, playing over-and-over on a television near you, are reminiscent of President Barack Obama's gaffe in 2008 about voters "clinging to their guns and religion," and sting just as much since it strikes at what the candidate really thinks.

In Utah, some 38 percent of Utahns didn't have any liability on their federal income taxes in 2008, ranking the state 13th in the country for the number of non-taxpayers, according to the Tax Foundation where Romney pulled his national average of 47 percent.

Sen. Orrin Hatch has made this an issue before, arguing that since half of Americans don't pay into the income tax system, it's left to the middle class to prop up the government's bank account.

"American taxpayers are skeptical that the answer to our fiscal problems is for them to sacrifice more, when almost half of all households are not paying any income taxes," Hatch said last year.

Hatch, however, didn't say that those who don't pay income taxes are "victims" like Romney or that he doesn't care about them. That's the part that may irk voters the most.

It took less than two hours for Romney's campaign to issue a statement saying that he "wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy." It took about the same amount of time for the pro-Obama Super PAC American Bridge to produce an advertisement highlighting the initial comment.

The election, like all that have come before, is full of problematic statements: You didn't build that. They're going to put you back in chains. And don't forget that people are corporations, too, my friend.

Like all political flare-ups, this too shall pass.

The most damaging thing about the comment, though, is the timing. Just as Obama's post-convention bounce appeared to be fading and Romney had a chance to climb back up, he again finds himself on the defense and off message.

Obama, meanwhile, had a previously scheduled engagement in New York City this afternoon: an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

49 days left to go.

— Thomas Burr@thomaswburr