The last time a gathering at Marc Leder’s home made news the headline read “Nude Frolic in Tycoon’s Pool.”
This time, it wasn’t naked revelers — but a Republican candidate who was left exposed.
A newly released undercover video shot last May during a high-dollar Mitt Romney fundraiser at Leder’s Boca Raton mansion has left the candidate’s presidential campaign in damage control over his plain-spoken comments about poor people who will vote for Obama because they want handouts.
Romney has said he’d make the U.S. more respected in the Middle East, but he suggested in private that he would “kick the ball down the field” rather than try to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Romney, whose campaign has suffered through a few recent missteps, acknowledged in a hastily called late-evening news conference Monday night that some of his “off the cuff” comments in the room of fundraisers “weren’t elegantly stated.”
But he stood by what he said as conservatives rallied to his side and called for more. “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” he said in the video.
He described them as people who pay no federal income tax and 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 healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
Romney’s comments were highlighted Monday by the liberal magazine Mother Jones, which obtained the undercover video and on Tuesday released the full recording of Romney’s address at Leder’s home.
The comments about poverty at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser were roundly bashed by liberals and President Barack Obama’s campaign. Even the president chimed in.
“My expectation is that if you want to be president, you have to work for everyone, not just for some,” Obama said in a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman on Tuesday.
Obama’s backers noted that Romney draws significant support from conservative, Southern states where a higher percentage of the population tends to receive some type of government assistance when compared with liberal Northern states or California. Also, nearly half of the tax-paying population pays no income tax because of decades of Republican-inspired policies that benefit the wealthy as well as the elderly, soldiers and the very poor.
Romney on Tuesday reiterated the sentiment that these voters are beyond his reach — “I’m not going to get them” — in an interview with Neil Cavuto, a conservative Fox News personality.
Coupled with Romney’s comments, the venue — a fundraiser at a venture capitalist’s home — underscored the issues of wealth and poverty playing out in the campaign.
Leder’s $3 million home is nestled in the heart of South Florida’s high-finance community, Boca Raton. About three-dozen guests sitting in gilt chairs had a chance to air their concerns and voice their support as Romney laid out his vision.
“It looks like an expensive Olive Garden in there,” said one donor who attended but declined to be identified.
Leder, a longtime friend and business associate of Romney’s, didn’t want to speak to reporters. He issued a written statement instead. “I hosted a fundraiser for an old friend in May,” he said. “I believe all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed, to improve their lives, and to build even better lives for their children. I have supported people from both political parties who share this view and make it a priority, even though their ideas on how to achieve it may differ.”