Republicans Run From Romney's "Gifts" Defense

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 15 2012 10:02 AM

Romney's Campaign Surrogates Are Done Defending Him

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Bobby Jindal addresses the National Press Club on May 2, 2008

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

"The president's campaign, if you will, focused on giving targeted groups a big gift. He made a big effort on small things."

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

That was Mitt Romney explaining his election loss to his big-dollar donors during a conference call Wednesday. Slate's Will Saletan and David Weigel have already dug into that quote (and those that accompanied it) and what it says about Romney. But in the meantime, Romney's fellow Republicans—those still in office and/or those harboring dreams of higher office—wasted little time putting some space between themselves and their former presidential nominee.

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Here was Bobby Jindal, the new head of the Republican Governors Association who is seen as a potential 2016 candidate, via the Los Angeles Times:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Romney’s comments just hours earlier in a conference call with top donors were "absolutely wrong."
"We have got to stop dividing the American voters," Jindal ... told reporters here. "If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage, and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly. One, we are fighting for 100% of the votes. And second, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream, period."

And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, via CNN:

Walker—who was sitting on a panel with Jindal when the Louisiana governor fired off—said the GOP isn't "just for people who are currently not dependent on the government."
"It's for all Americans," he continued, adding that the Republican Party is the party "that helps people find a pathway to live the American Dream."

Politico's Mike Allen spoke with an untold number of establishment Republicans to take their temperature yesterday. Here's how he laid out the general GOP reaction inside the Beltway:

1) Republicans we talked to said this sounded like sour grapes, and were sad that Romney’s first comments were bitter and backward-looking. 2) His analysis is incomplete to inaccurate: Obama didn’t win Janesville, Iowa or New Hampshire because of gifts to minorities. 3) This mindset is at odds with the views of most other prominent Republicans, who say the party needs to do some heavy soul-searching and modernizing. Republicans tell us these comments convinced them that Romney just doesn’t get it, and that “47 percent” was no slip of the tongue. 4) Supporters would like Romney to sound like a leader, not a pundit. 5) Why alienate people now, when he could use his fame and platform to start or support some big philanthropic or civic effort?

It's worth remembering that this push-back is coming from a group of politicians who only last week were still touting Romney as the nation's next president. The general reaction is also noticeably different from the one we saw this summer when Romney's 47-percent tape was playing on a near-constant loop on cable news networks and many of the candidate's surrogates were left largely standing behind the main thrust—if not the exact wording and tone—of those remarks.

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