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Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said today that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney needs to “backtrack” and reframe comments in which the former Massachusetts governor said he was worried about the middle class and “not concerned about the very poor.”
DeMint defended Romney against any suggestion that he doesn’t care about the poor and lauded the former governor’s focus on the middle class. But the Senator indicated that Romney’s comments, made during a CNN interview this morning, were problematic because Democrats might easily use them against him. Romney, explaining his position, said the poor have access to government “safety net” programs that aren’t available to the middle class.
DeMint said that portion of Romney’s comments also need to be reframed. While Democrats have been using Romney’s comments to argue he is callous toward the poor, conservatives have expressed concern that the former governor might be OK with having Americans who are dependent on government-subsidized social programs.
“He needs to address it,” DeMint told Roll Call. “Because I know he does care about the poor. But I think he was trying to make a case that they’re taken care of. But, in fact, I would say I’m worried about the poor because many are trapped in dependency, they need a good job; they don’t need to be on social welfare programs. I think he needs to turn that around because — the middle class is key, and we have to focus on that. And, really, the problem with the middle class is not successful people, it’s politicians — but the key to making our country successful it to get everyone on that economic ladder.
“I think all of this is a teachable moment for America,” DeMint continued. “I think Bain Capital was, and I think he finally turned that around and showed some confidence in his success, and we need to do that here. We do worry about the poor when they’re trapped in government dependency programs and the education system’s not producing the skills [and] character for them to succeed, and I think it is an important thing for him to backtrack on that. I don’t think anyone thinks he doesn’t care about the poor, but I think he’s trying to say they’re taken care of right now with these programs. Those are the programs that are hurting, not just the poor, but our country. We need to address it at every level.”
Romney told CNN today, “I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling, and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.”
DeMint has not endorsed a candidate in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, but he did back Romney in 2008.