In a 1998 audio clip that surfaced online Tuesday afternoon, Obama is heard speaking at a conference at Loyola University in Chicago, where he suggested that society needed to come up with a plan to “structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”
Romney pounced on those comments, which Obama made when he was an Illinois state senator, at an Atlanta fundraiser on Wednesday. Obama’s speech, Romney said, indicated support for a European-style system that would never work in the United States.
“I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution,” Romney told the crowd. “It’s never been a characteristic of America.
“This idea of redistribution follows from the idea that if you have a business, you didn’t build it — someone else did that,” Romney said, hearkening back to Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line from a speech he made in July pointing out that small businesses have relied on some government support.
Late Wednesday, Romney appeared to back off his comments about the “47 percent,” telling Spanish-language network Univision, “My campaign is about the 100 percent in America and I’m concerned about them. I’m concerned that over the past four years life has become harder for Americans.”
Romney brought up Obama’s 1998 speech in an interview with Fox News Channel on Tuesday and in a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday, all part of a new strategy to raise doubts about Obama’s economic theories, draw attention away from Romney’s criticism of Americans who don’t pay income tax and perhaps add the word “redistribution” to the list of well-worn right-wing attack lines, including “Are you better off?” and “Drill, baby, drill.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney called the newest GOP assault a sign of a “desperate” campaign that is having a “very bad week.”
“The charge based on this 14-year-old video sounds very familiar to one that was tried and failed in 2008,” Carney said Wednesday. In 1998, “then-Senator Obama was making an argument for a more efficient, more effective government, specifically citing city government agencies that he did not think were working effectively. He believed then and believes now that there are steps we can take to promote opportunity and ensure that all Americans have a fair shot if they work hard.”
The shift in campaign tactics comes just days after aides said Romney would begin offering details of his five-point economic plan, as voters become more attentive to the campaign and after polling data suggested they’re eager to learn more about Romney’s policy positions.