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Mitt Romney's Right But Needs Better Numbers, 47 Percenter Says

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A sign on the door says Richard Wood's title insurance office is closed today. It's really closed every day.
A sign on the door says Richard Wood's title insurance office is closed today. It's really closed every day.

Richard Wood thinks Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is correct that a broad swath of Americans is dependent on government and devoid of personal responsibility, but maybe not as broad a swath as Romney suggested.

"He needs to get better numbers, but he needs to hit on it because that's one of the problems with this country," said Wood, who is 63 and lives in Bradenton, Fla.

In a video released this week of Romney speaking at a campaign fundraiser in May, the former Massachusetts governor told donors that 47 percent of the country won't vote for him because they'd rather rely on President Barack Obama's administration for handouts.

"Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax, so our message of low taxes doesn't connect," Romney said in the video. "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Romney's comments are a mashup of two common conservative complaints, one that nearly half of the country does not pay federal income taxes, and the other that half of the country receives some type of government benefit, such as Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment insurance. Both numbers have been inflated recently by the Great Recession and its endless aftermath.

Wood knows Romney needs better numbers for his message because he is a Romney supporter, yet he is also member of the 47 percent: Wood receives Social Security and has not paid income taxes since his title insurance business tanked years ago.

Wood even met with the candidate earlier this year, at a roundtable in Tampa where Romney listened to Wood's troubles and encouraged him to use the government's safety net by filing for bankruptcy.

The controversy over Romney's remarks, according to Wood, is "just another diversion so the Obama press doesn't have to talk about his record."

Another part of Romney's comments, in which he lamented Americans "who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them," suggested to Wood that the candidate had in mind a narrower population than simply everyone not paying taxes or receiving benefits. Wood said he thinks Romney meant the type of people who get free meals at Wood's church every week.

"A number of the people I feed breakfast to on Thursday morning are just happy to get free cellphones and government checks and they're sleeping outside," Wood said. Asked what percentage of the country might share the victim mentality, Wood ventured 20 or 30 percent. "I think it's an increasing number," he said.

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