I believe the point I was made is that the president starts off with a large number of the voters, 47, 48, 49 percent, something like that. These are people who are in his camp and, uh, they will vote for him almost no matter what. [...] I point out I recognize that among those that pay no tax, approximately 47 percent of Americans, I’m not likely to be highly successful with the message of lowering taxes. [...] And so I then focus on those individuals who I believe are most likely to be able to be pulled into my camp and help me win the 51 or 50.1 percent that I need to become the next President.Romney said that his remarks were "not elegantly stated," but added that he won't back down from them. "It’s a message which I’m going to carry and continue to carry," he said.
I don't know if there's anything else he could have said in his response, but let's be clear: Romney's position is as false as it is heartless. He's not just disparaging and writing off half of Americans, he's accusing them of paying "no taxes." That's just not true.
The reality is that most of Mitt's alleged moochers actually do pay federal taxes (see below for details), and virtually all of those who don't still pay state and local taxes. Moreover, many of the people he accuses of being moochers are actually part of his coalition—most of the people who pay neither federal income nor payroll tax are elderly voters, who represent Romney's strongest age demographic. And in 2011, 7,000 millionaires paid no income tax. Surely, Romney could squeeze a few votes from that group.
What this comes down to is that Mitt Romney said something that was not only demonstrably untrue, not only wildly offensive, but also made no sense as political analysis. It was the worst of conservatism jam-packed into a 60 second soundbite: an insulting argument completely disconnected from reality that wouldn't even achieve the stated goals of conservatism were it allowed to prevail. And presented with the opportunity to divorce himself from his statement, Romney decided it would be better to double down than to admit he was wrong. It was simultaneously ignorant, obnoxious, and counterproductive. And Romney's response: no apology.
* The fact is that more than 80 percent of Americans pay federal taxes. 46.4 percent don't pay federal income taxes, but 61 percent of those people do pay federal payroll taxes. Those who don't pay payroll taxes are primarily elderly retirees, many of whom support Romney. Also in that group: the poor and disabled.