U.S. Rep. Phil Roe predicted Thursday that GOP challenger Mitt Romney will still win the presidency despite Romney’s “47 percent” remark about Americans who support incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama because they are dependent upon government.
“I might have stated it a little differently, but ... we’ve got 105 million people who receive some (welfare) transfer payment...” Roe, R-Tenn., said when asked about Romney’s comment in a conference call with reporters. “Some of what these people pass off for work doesn’t pass the laugh test. Our people where we are (in Northeast Tennessee) know what work is.”
Roe said a woman who works for a local drugstore chain told him people were using food stamps to buy Chex Mix, candy and Cokes.
“We think of food as potatoes and meat and chicken and rice and beans,” Roe told reporters.
According to a transcript of Romney’s remarks secretly recorded at a fund-raising event last spring, he was asked how he will convince Americans to take care of themselves.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president (Obama) no matter what,” Romney responded. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.
“And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48 (percent) — he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people — I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Roe insisted Romney’s campaign remains upbeat despite massive publicity over the remark.
“I saw (GOP vice president nominee and U.S. Rep.) Paul Ryan today, and he was pretty fired up,” Roe said. “You have ups and downs in campaigns. ... There are days you feel like I can’t get out of the bed ... and then there are weeks where it goes really good.”
Roe said the Romney-Obama race in the November general election will be close but will ultimately hinge on the economy.
Roe cited lower per-capita incomes, unemployment above 8 percent for 43 consecutive months, and gas prices that have doubled since Obama took office in 2009.
“This is a vision of two futures, and I think Romney is going to win,” Roe said.
After the conference call, Roe was slated to go into a House Republican Conference meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss unrest in the Muslim Middle East — unrest that recently resulted in the deaths of four American diplomatic operatives in Libya.
“It was a coordinated attack,” Roe said of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ death in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. That wasn’t just a random mob action.”
Roe also noted there will be a lame-duck congressional session after the November general election to deal with budget matters, including across-the-board spending cuts called for in last year’s Budget Control Act.
Those cuts, also known as “sequestration,” could have severe consequences for the military, Roe warned.
“If we could get anything passed, I’d work right up until Election Day,” Roe said of the lame-duck session. “The problem with it is we send it over to the Senate, and nothing happens. ... In this place, nobody every did a term paper on time while they were in college. We wait until the last minute to do everything.”
In the November general election, Roe will face Democratic challenger Alan Woodruff of Gray, two independents and one Green Party candidate.
Roe has done numerous town hall meetings this year in the 1st Congressional District but said he will not debate Woodruff because he is conducting mostly a Facebook and Internet political campaign.
“Doing that is not campaigning,” Roe claimed. “You have to get out among the people and find out what’s on their mind. ... The people in our district deserve that kind of effort, whoever the congressman is.”