Conor Friedersdorf puts Romney's remarks in context:
This "47 percent" incident reflects a larger theme in Campaign 2012. The base of the conservative movement develops a message that plays well internally, and inexplicably thinks it'll be persuasive to the general electorate if only it is trumpeted. Mitt Romney slavishly conducts himself as the base wishes. And the talking points turn out to be as unpopular with swing voters as you'd expect. That's how it's gone on foreign policy; now that Romney has been caught making the verbal equivalent of a 53% Tumblr entry, that's how it's going on domestic policy too.
Tomasky has a similar thought:
In a way, it’s not even mostly Romney’s fault. It’s the fault of the party and movement that introduced and spread this toxic propaganda in the first place. When Romney is licking his wounds on Nov. 7, that party and movement will fire all its arrows at him. He’ll deserve a lot of them. But they will have buried him with the ignorance and rage they demanded he adopt. His chief crime will have been his weakness in failing to confront them.
Bill Kristol calls Romney's remarks "arrogant and stupid":
It's worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don't pay income taxes are Romney supporters—especially of course seniors (who might well "believe they are entitled to heath care," a position Romney agrees with), as well as many lower-income Americans (including men and women serving in the military) who think conservative policies are better for the country even if they're not getting a tax cut under the Romney plan. So Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him.
Alex Klein defends Romney:
Mitt Romney is right that, due to deductions and the rising burden of payroll taxes, 47 percent of Americans don’t pay income tax, and that just as many households are dependent on government transfers in some way. But what about the harder question: Is Mitt right to say that those people are more likely to support Obama? For the most part, yes. Crunching the Tax Policy Center’s figures, you find that 82.8 percent of those who pay no income tax live in households with income under $33,542. And according to Gallup, among those with incomes under $36,000, Obama has a massive, 15-point lead.
But Romney didn't claim that non-income tax payers lean toward the left, he said that the full 47 percent are Obama supporters. He called me a mooch. Many of you too. And I pay close to 50 percent on my earnings from writing, and he pays 13 percent, because of government policy. As Cartman might say, that pisses me off. Andrew Gelman weighs in:
I agree that there’s a correlation between voting for Obama and being on government benefits, but the correlation is far from 100%. Also, lots of middle and upper-income people rely heavily on government programs and also pay taxes (consider, for example, the civilian and military employees of the federal government, or local public employees such as teachers and police officers, or even researchers such as myself who receive government funds); I’m not sure where they fit into Romney’s story.
Frum wonders why resentment towards the 47 percent resonates on the right. His guess:
When you ask white Americans to estimate the black population of the United States, the answer averages out at nearly 30%. Ask them to estimate the Hispanic population, and the answer averages out at 22%. So when a politician or a broadcaster talks about 47% in "dependency," the image that swims into many white voters' minds is not their mother in Florida, her Social Security untaxed, receiving Medicare benefits vastly greater than her lifetime tax contributions; it is not their uncle, laid off after 30 years and now too old to start over. No, the image that comes into mind is minorities on welfare.
Matt Welch also rejects Romney's rhetoric:
I should theoretically be the target audience for this stuff. I never took out a federally guaranteed student loan, never enjoyed the mortgage-interest deduction; I worry all the time about government spending and entitlements, and I am not unfamiliar with the looter/moocher formulation. But this kind of reductionism does not reflect individualism (as David Brooks charges), it rejects individualism, by insisting that income tax is destiny. It judges U.S. residents not as humans but as productive (or unproductive) units. (Though as long as people are thinking that way, is there any category of resident less taker-y than illegal immigrants with fake Social Security cards who file income taxes?) And it prematurely valorizes one class of government-gobbling Americans while prematurely writing off another.
Reihan thinks the percentage of Americans who pay income taxes is a distraction:
The version of conservative tax policy I favor might actually further reduce the share of tax units that pay federal income taxes, yet it would strengthen the work ethic, increase labor force participation, and discourage the kind of dependency that concerns Mitt Romney.
Jonathan Alter adds his two cents:
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about liberals waging “class warfare.” But what could be more warlike on the battlefield of class than dividing the country into “makers” and “takers”? If Romney wins, we’re in for a nasty form of class politics that we haven’t seen in this country since the late 19th Century. But even if he loses, the 2012 election will be long remembered as the year when the divisive and often cruel dimensions of a cramped political philosophy were laid bare for all the world to see.
Andrew Sprung's view:
This is the mother of all 'what you really think' gaffes — or perhaps just 'what you really want your core supporters to think you think' gaffes.
(Photo: GOP Presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney wipes the sweat away during a rally held at Van Dyck Park in Fairfax, Virginia on Thursday, September 13, 2012. By Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)