(Corrects Sept. 18 story in paragraph 25 and final subhead from "Islamics" to "Hispanics")

* Donor anxieties about likability, lack of aggression

* Ribbed for being "known as a rich boy"

* Letterman "jealous" about his appearances on Leno

By Samuel P. Jacobs

WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - The surreptitious video recording of a fundraiser held for Republican Mitt Romney in May provided a rare glimpse of how he views supporters of President Barack Obama - as government dependents.

It also provided an equally novel sight of a relaxed Romney doing an impression of Henry Kissinger, dishing about late-night television talk show host David Letterman, and receiving some pointed tips for his presidential campaign.

"I saw Dr. Kissinger," Romney says on the video, recounting a meeting in New York with the former U.S. secretary of state. "I said to him, 'How are we perceived around the world?' And he said one word: 'Veak!'"

The secretly filmed recording, released in its entirety by the liberal Mother Jones magazine on Tuesday, opened a window on how Romney acts during the kind of private meeting with donors that is helping to propel the most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history.

In this case the former Massachusetts governor and private equity executive was speaking to donors who paid $50,000 each for the privilege of his company at a private dinner at the Boca Raton, Florida, home of financier Marc Leder.

Family and friends often say that Romney, who can be awkward while campaigning, is at ease and funny when the cameras are off- or believed to be.

"You're not eating," Romney scolded one attendee during his remarks at the fundraiser.

"I'm mesmerized," the donor said.

"He's bored to tears," Romney said to laughter.

At one point, Romney decided to give the donor a lesson in eating.

"You take this, your fork, and you put it in," Romney said.

When asked about Democrats' criticisms of his tenure as a wealthy executive at Bain Capital, Romney pretended to plead poverty.

"I'm poor as a church mouse," said Romney, who has an estimated fortune of $250 million.


Romney also gossiped about CBS late-night talk show host David Letterman, a frequent critic of the Republican. Romney said he preferred Jay Leno, host of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

"Letterman hates me because I've been on Leno more than him. They are very jealous of each other, you know," Romney said.

By coincidence, a few hours after the video's release online, Obama arrived in New York City to tape an interview with Letterman.

Romney said he turned down an appearance on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" because visiting the show "has the potential of looking slapstick and not presidential."

Days before the election in 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, flew to New York to be on the show.


At the Florida fundraiser, Romney's comments were captured by a videocamera that had been placed on what appeared to be a marble bar.

Waiters wearing white gloves were seen serving the guests red wine from decanters. For most of the video, only the backs of donors' heads can be seen, with Romney in profile.

The audio does, however, pick up donors' comments to Romney, including some good-natured ribbing about his image on the campaign trail.

"They say, 'He's a rich boy,'" one donor affably told Romney during the dinner.

The comments reflected donors' anxieties about Romney's perceived deficiencies.

One donor complained of the difficulties of converting Obama supporters to Romney's side.

"Right now I'm very concerned," she said. "Women do not want to vote for you. Hispanics, majority, do not want to vote for you. College students don't."

"Why don't you stick up for yourself?" a male donor asked Romney.

"You have to show your face more on TV," said another.

A third donor counseled Romney on the importance of social media.

A fourth donor urged Romney to "take the gloves off and talk to the people who actually read the paper."

When Romney responded to their reservations by telling the guests about the importance of his three debates against Obama in October, a donor cut him off.

"You will do so well," the donor said. "Your debates are incredible." (Editing by David Lindsey and Prudence Crowther; Desking by Vicki Allen)

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

Also on HuffPost:

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  • Scott Brown

    "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," Scott said in an email to <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/senate-races/250157-sen-scott-brown-denounces-romney-comments" target="_hplink">The Hill</a>.

  • Paul Ryan

    "He was obviously inarticulate in making this point," Ryan <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/paul-ryan-mitt-romney-video_n_1895403.html" target="_hplink">said</a> during an interview with a Nevada television station.

  • Rush Limbaugh

    "This could be the opportunity for Romney, and for that campaign, to finally take the gloves off and take the fear off and just start explaining conservatism, start explaining liberty to people and what it means," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/rush-limbaugh-mitt-romney_n_1893882.html" target="_hplink">Limbaugh said</a> Tuesday. "And explain that they don't need to be in that 47 percent. There's no reason for them, for everybody to be -- essentially having given up on their future in this country. There's no reason for it. This is, to me, such an opportunity to espouse conservatism."

  • Allen West

    "Mitt Romney probably could have better explained himself. I think he was a little clumsy in doing this," <a href="http://thehill.com/video/house/249975-rep-allen-west-romney-a-little-clumsy-with-47-percent-comment" target="_hplink">West said</a> on Fox News.

  • David Brooks

    "Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I'd put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. But, as a description of America today, Romney's comment is a country-club fantasy. It's what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/opinion/brooks-thurston-howell-romney.html?ref=davidbrooks" target="_hplink">Brooks wrote</a>. "He's running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?"

  • Bill Kristol

    "It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!). But that shouldn't blind us to the fact that Romney's comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant," <a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/note-romney-s-arrogant-and-stupid-remarks_652548.html" target="_hplink">Kristol wrote</a>.

  • Dana Loesch

  • Donald Trump

    "He has to not apologize, because we've seen enough apologizing already, and he cannot apologize," <a href="http://thehill.com/video/campaign/249993-trump-romney-cannot-apologize-for-inartful-comments-at-fundraiser" target="_hplink">Trump said</a> on NBC News. "What he said is probably what he means." Trump also said that Romney's words were "inartfully stated."

  • Erick Erickson

    "The Romney campaign should double down on what he said. They should own it. The trouble for the left and media (but I repeat myself) is that most Americans agree with Mitt Romney. Most Americans consider themselves part of the 53% and it is not a winning proposition for Barack Obama to convince Americans they are less than they think they are when most Americans already recognize he has made them less than they were," <a href="http://www.redstate.com/2012/09/17/treat-the-press-as-enemy-collaborators/" target="_hplink">Erickson wrote</a> in a blog post on RedState.com.

  • Chris Christie

    "[Romney] believes that every American has got to have skin in the game...he doesn't want what the president wants," <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/09/christie-romney-wants-to-empower-people-135893.html" target="_hplink">Christie said</a> on Fox News, adding that Romney wants to "empower individuals...and that's what he's really talking about."

  • Laura Ingraham

    "The idea that you're declaring, 'Well, the race is over. Mitt Romney doesn't care about people,'" <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/tv/laura-ingraham-fired-up-over-romneys-47-tape-its-ridiculous-this-is-getting-airtime/" target="_hplink">Ingraham said </a>on Fox News. "Meanwhile, you have a president whose policies have undermined the 47 percent. ... I'm very pumped up about this. I think it's ridiculous that people are seizing on it and that we're even giving all that much airtime to it, frankly."

  • Linda McMahon

    "I disagree with Governor Romney's insinuation that 47% of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care. I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be. People today are struggling because the government has failed to keep America competitive, failed to support job creators, and failed to get our economy back on track," <a href="http://www.lindaforsenate2012.com/news/press-releases/2012/09/18/linda-mcmahon-response-to-mitt-romneys-remarks/" target="_hplink">McMahon said</a> in a statement.

  • Jonah Goldberg

    "To read many of the reactions on Twitter, you'd think Mother Jones had just found video of Mitt Romney strangling a hooker with her own pantyhose," <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/322394/quick-thoughts-freeloaderdammerung-jonah-goldberg" target="_hplink">Goldberg wrote</a>. "Indeed, many people understand what Romney is getting at here, even if he's saying it badly."