What About Your Gifts?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 14 2012 5:51 PM

What About Your Gifts?

Maeve Reston scoops a conference call that Mitt Romney held for the poor schlubs who donated to him. (Note: said schlubs are not actually poor." The lede is that Romney blamed his loss on "gifts" from the administration to the moochers. What gifts are we talking about?

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

- the administration’s plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest and the extension of health coverage for students on their parents’ insurance plans well into their 20s

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- free contraception coverage under Obama’s healthcare plan

- health care plan’s promise of coverage “in perpetuity”

-  “amnesty” to the children of illegal immigrants

In these remaining moments that Mitt Romney remains a national figure, I have to ask: Does he not understand the transactional nature of government spending? This is a candidate who stumped in coal country promising to save the industry from health regulations and the natural gas industry, and who stumped in Virginia promising to increase spending on the defense programs that employed people in Tidewater.

I'm sure Romney gets this, and I'm sure -- because he keeps saying it -- that he views social programs as a dirtier deal for votes than actual spending on jobs that benefit certain constituencies. What's fascinating is that he keeps saying this to donors. The "47% tape" was recorded in front of wealthy donors who didn't understand why the rest of the country didn't back a candidate who was going to cut their taxes. Romney understood, and understands, that these people want to believe that poor voters are being exploited by Democrats and forced to vote themselves more benefits. It's a theory that undergirds a lot of conservative election analysis. Let's not just write off Romney as some gormless dweeb.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.