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Romney points to 1998 Obama remarks to divert attention from flap over video

Lauren Reber PrincetTexas holds sign as she protests outside hotel hosting fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt

Lauren Reber, of Princeton, Texas, holds a sign as she protests outside the hotel hosting a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Dallas, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Reber said she is disabled but unable to qualify for government assistance she says she needs. | L.M Otero~AP

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Updated: October 20, 2012 6:27AM

Seeking to defuse a firestorm over an explosive video released this week of comments he made dissing 47 percent of Americans, Mitt Romney sought to shift the conversation Tuesday to remarks President Barack Obama made 14 years ago about redistributing wealth.

Romney said remarks he made in a leaked video of a May fund-raiser were “not eloquently stated” then attempted to put Obama on the defensive.

“The right course for America is to create wealth … not to redistribute wealth,” Romney said in a Tuesday interview with Fox News, making reference to a 1998 recording in which Barack Obama talks about supporting redistribution of wealth.

Romney attempted to frame his remarks from the video — taken in May at the private home of a donor in Boca Raton, Fla. — as a big government versus small government debate. In the video, Romney is heard saying 47 percent of Americans pay no taxes and expect free health care

“There are 47 percent who are with [Obama] who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to … you name it. That’s an entitlement.” Romney went on to say that that segment of the population would never vote for him anyway.

The Obama campaign already used some of the secretly-recorded video footage in a web video and a source with the campaign said it was also looking at running a TV spot.

While campaigning in Utah on Tuesday, Romney toned down his remarks, saying he supported helping those in need, but opposed “redistribution.” In an attempt at a push-back, conservative blogger Matt Drudge led his popular Web site with a link to a 1998 audio recording of Obama, then an Illinois state legislator, talking at a conference at Loyola University in Chicago.

In the audio clip, Obama says: “I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”

Romney’s attempt, however, appeared to fall short of drowning out Day Two of intense coverage stemming from a secretly recorded video tapes in which Romney tells a group of wealthy donors in May that 47 percent of Americans take handouts and “my job is not to worry about those people.”

In 2011, the Tax Policy Center reported that 46 percent of Americans did not pay federal income taxes. However, data from the group also indicates that many of those same people pay federal payroll taxes, local income taxes and property taxes.

The chatter about Romney’s videos dominated news programs, social media and talk radio.

The liberal Web site, Mother Jones, which first posted excerpts of the secretly-recorded video, released it in its entirety Tuesday afternoon after Romney, at a hastily-called news conference Monday night, asked for its full release.

That only seemed to freshen up the storyline, however.

In addition to the “47 percent” remarks, Romney told the small group of donors that Palestinians had no interest in reaching a peace accord with Israel.

“I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way,” Romney said.

Some conservatives were blasting Romney on Tuesday. That included William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard who referred to Romney’s remarks as “arrogant and stupid.”

However, Kristol, like many political observers on Tuesday harkened to Obama’s primary race in 2008, when he told a group of supporters in San Francisco that people in middle America cling to their “guns and their religion.” At the time, the video rocked Obama’s campaign. But it soon faded.

Some Illinois Republicans believed the same would be the case with Romney’s comm ents. “I don’t think they’re a big deal. I’m surprised that everybody is making a big deal about it,” said conservative Al Salvi. Salvi, who was a delegate of failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum, said Romney’s remarks were a poor way of articulating what he’s always believed.

“To me, what he said, is what basically he’s been saying throughout the whole campaign. Less government, more taxes and greater freedom,” Salvi said. “I don’t think he’s ever said there should be no safety net. In fact, as a governor, a lot of conservatives thought he had too big of a safety net.”

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said this, too, will pass.

“I don’t think it’ll have much impact. No more impact than when Obama said conservatives cling to their guns and religion,” Brady said.

Americans will eventually focus on other issues, he said: “We have two more jobs reports before the election.”

As of Tuesday night, however, #RomneyEncore was still trending on Twitter for the second consecutive day. Thousands of people across America mocked the millionaire as grossly out of touch.

One Tweeter wrote: “If I had a nickel for every time Romney said something stupid, I’d be in his income bracket.”

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