Corbett, Christie defend Romney remarks

Posted: September 19, 2012

The task of defending Mitt Romney's taped remarks about dependency on government - and, to a lesser extent, 1998 remarks attributed to President Obama about redistributing wealth - fell Wednesday to local campaign surrogates.

Gov. Corbett held a news conference arranged by Romney's campaign. Though he didn't mention the Republican presidential nominee's comments until prodded by a reporter, he said he believed the nation was moving toward what he called "a totally dependent mentality."

On the other side of the river, New Jersey Gov. Christie fielded a similar question by blaming the media for obsessing over a "distraction."

Corbett began a news conference in the administration building for the Port of Philadelphia in the city's Port Richmond section with prepared remarks touting his efforts to create jobs and Romney's plans to increase exports and get tougher with China.

The Republican governor was then asked to react to the recently unearthed comments Romney made at a May fund-raiser about the 47 percent of Americans "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims."

Corbett replied, "What [Romney] is commenting on is a number of people who are now dependent on the government, and that has continued to grow under this administration."

That echoed an op-ed by Romney published Wednesday in USA Today. "Under President Obama, we have a stagnant economy that fosters government dependency," he wrote in part. "My policies will create a growing economy that fosters upward mobility."

It is true that a greater number of Americans now receive food stamps and unemployment insurance; Democrats say those programs are being tapped because of the struggling economy, not because of policy changes.

Corbett cited a different example, alleging that Obama has let states bypass mandates that require welfare recipients to work or get job training.

This criticism first surfaced in a Romney campaign ad and has been challenged by nonpartisan fact-checkers. Under an Obama welfare policy, states can seek a waiver to work-participation rules, but in return must offer a "more efficient or effective means to promote employment," according to Factcheck.org, a project at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Still, Corbett pursued the larger point. "We have to start reducing the dependency on the government because we have become, or we're close to becoming, a totally dependent mentality, and this country will never be what it once was if we accept that," he said.

Later in the day, the state GOP said it would have good news for Romney on Thursday - the results of a Susquehanna Polling and Research survey, conducted Monday, showing him trailing Obama in Pennsylvania by just 1 percentage point, 48 to 47.

Other polls, including The Inquirer's, have had Obama leading in the state by 9 to 11 points. G. Terry Madonna, poll director at Franklin and Marshall College, said the new numbers sounded surprising.

"If the poll's right, I think you would quickly see a change in the campaigns overnight," Madonna said, noting that TV ads would blanket the airwaves within two weeks.

In New Jersey, Christie also spoke Wednesday of larger themes, such as Romney's desire to limit the size of government and ensure "shared sacrifice."

But in his appearance on NJ101.5-FM radio, Christie added this tack: "Some people in the media should just turn in their media credential and get an Obama-for-president credential, the way they focus on things that people said back last May."

Before the Corbett event, Obama's campaign staged its own, featuring two college seniors who receive Pell Grants. Obama doubled funding for the education subsidy for students from middle- and low-income households.

In announcing Wednesday's event, the Romney campaign highlighted the newly surfaced audio recording from 1998 in which Obama, then an Illinois state senator, is heard saying, "I actually believe in some redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."

Corbett and two legislators with him Wednesday, State Reps. Bill Adolph (R., Delaware) and John Taylor (R., Phila.), did not mention the recording. At the earlier Obama event, though, a reporter asked Democrats about it.

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D., York) replied by saying that he had needed financial help to attend graduate school while his father was in prison, and that his wife had needed help when she sought to go on to college from her family's struggling dairy farm.

DePasquale, who is running for state auditor general, said, "That gave us the ability to then go out and make our money and be productive members of society. That's what the president is fighting for."


Contact Matt Katz at 609-217-8355 or mkatz@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @mattkatz00. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at www.philly.com/christiechronicles.

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