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This one's going to leave a mark. The AP:

Already scrambling to steady a struggling campaign, Republican Mitt Romney confronted a new headache Monday after a video surfaced showing him telling wealthy donors that almost half of all Americans "believe they are victims" entitled to extensive government support. He added that as a candidate for the White House, "my job is not to worry about those people."

At a hastily called news conference late in the day, Romney offered no apologies for his remarks, and when he was asked if he was concerned he had offended anyone, he conceded the comments weren't "elegantly stated" and they were spoken "off the cuff."

"No apologies." Makes for a good book title. Not so good of a campaign strategy, though. David Axelrod pitches the follow-up:
Josh Barro  at Bloomberg:
You can mark my prediction now: A secret recording from a closed-door Mitt Romney fundraiser, released today by David Corn at Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney's campaign for president. [...]

Romney already has trouble relating to the public and convincing people he cares about them. Now, he's been caught on video saying that nearly half the country consists of hopeless losers.

Romney has been vigorously denying President Obama's claims that his tax plan would raise taxes on the middle class. Now, he's been caught on video suggesting that low- and middle-income Americans are undertaxed.

Conservative David Brooks eviscerates Romney and his inept campaign in The New York Times:
Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare? [...]

Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?

Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post gives his reaction:
[W]hat the Republican presidential nominee said is reprehensible and unbecoming a man who claims to want to be president of all Americans.
Wasn't that what everyone was saying just days ago about Romney's response to the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans? Yeah, it's not a great sign when pundits use the term "unbecoming" twice in one week to describe your strategy.

If you want a sense of how long this is going to keep Camp Romney off-message, take a look at Mark Halperin's take. He practically has a punditgasm over the tape:

This story has secret video (not all of which has been aired yet!); ridiculous, explosive soundbites; controversy; an outraged opposition; and a lot of spinoff angles (reporting galore on income and tax figures; reporting galore on by whom the video was taken; endless speculation/reporting about what Romney really meant, what comparable things he’s said in the past, including at other closed fundraisers, etc).

This is politically devastating because it plays into people’s preconceived notions of Romney as Monty Burns+Thurston Howell.

Joan Walsh at Salon:
Particularly when he rails against the “dependent,” Romney is talking about his older white base, which is dependent on Social Security and Medicare and doesn’t want either program touched. But this is why Romney has had a hard time closing the deal with white working class voters, and the video isn’t going to help. He’s an equal opportunity class warrior: he disdains everyone who is struggling.
Amol Rajan at The Independent:
Mitt Romney’s campaign strategy seems to be twofold: make life as hard as possible for your most devoted followers; convince everybody else that you’re the stereotypical and heartless capitalist brute of Democrat caricature. In the past 24 hours, he’s executed this strategy very effectively.

Ezra Klein:

There are two sure signs a campaign is in trouble. The first is that it begins changing its strategy rapidly and erratically. The second is that it begins attacking its strategists fiercely and anonymously.

The Romney campaign is in trouble. [...]

That’s not to say Romney couldn’t win the election. A 3 percent gap is not insurmountable. But we’re quickly approaching a point where his comeback would be unprecedented in modern presidential history. And if the Romney campaign begins to crack under the pressure, then that comeback becomes that much less likely.

Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon...before the tape reveal:
The Romney campaign, it seems fair to conclude, is in panic mode and maybe already convinced they’ve lost.
Meanwhile, Ed Rogers at The Washington Post gives us the bizarro world takeaway on Romney's campaign so far (this was before the tape was released):
By any historical measure, the Romney campaign is in pretty good shape. Romney is no more than two to four points down, he’s about even with money, and there is no way Obama’s voters have the same enthusiasm as those who want to remove him from office.

I am credible as a panicker. This Insider will tell readers when it’s time to panic.

Anytime you're ready, Ed.

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