The wide release of Mitt Romney's remarks about the "47 percent" of the country who the GOP presidential nominee says he'll "never convince" to "take personal responsibility and care for their lives" has largely led to a philosophical discussion over whether it will hurt or help Romney's chances in November.
But downticket, Romney's fellow Republicans -- specifically those who find themselves in tight races -- are finding his remarks to be toxic. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is in a tight reelection battle against Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), had emerged as the favorite of late, owing to Berkley getting caught up in an ethics investigation. But this donor party video has forced Heller to put some distance between himself and Romney, with Heller insisting that he has a “very different view of the world” than his party's standard-bearer. Rosalind S. Helderman of the Washington Post captures Heller's remarks:
“Keep in mind, I have five brothers and sisters. My father was an auto mechanic. My mother was a school cook. I have a very different view of the world,” Heller said. “And as United States Senator, I think I represent everyone, and every vote’s important. Every vote’s important in this race. I don’t write off anybody.”
Heller is now the third GOP Senate candidate to be affected by the practical, political fallout from Romney's remarks. Earlier this week, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) -- whose race against Elizabeth Warren has perhaps the most noticeably populist overtones -- split with Romney over his remarks in a statement from which Heller seems to have partially cribbed:
That’s not the way I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being forced into public assistance for lack of jobs.
Brown followed the lead of his fellow New England Republican Linda McMahon, a candidate for Senate in Connecticut -- who, it should be noted, was for Romney's "47%" rhetoric before she was against it -- and Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).
The disowning of Romney's remarks has not been limited to those seeking office in 2012. New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez (R) has also rebuked Romney's argument. "We have a lot of people that are at the poverty level in New Mexico, but they count just as much as anybody else,” Martinez said. “There is a net that does allow them to be caught and taken care of, whether it be through medical services, whether it be food services, whether it be with funding for apartments, for housing ... I think, certainly the fact that New Mexico provides that safety net is a good thing." Martinez will not be up for reelection until 2014, but she was a Romney endorser, a key speaker at the Republican National Convention, and was considered to be in the running for Romney's vice presidential selection.
Conservatives more oriented to the national horserace, of course, have been divided over whether Romney's remarks necessitate a "denunciation," followed by an "intervention" -- as Peggy Noonan implies -- or if they present him with a "golden opportunity," as Rush Limbaugh has suggested. When you move downticket, however, it becomes clear that Republican candidates in tight races don't have the time to spend litigating the matter -- especially at a time when the GOP is seeing its chances at reclaiming a Senate majority start to slip.
Said Heller, “I just don’t want to make it a habit of having to respond to comments made by other campaigns."
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