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While Mitt Romney still can defeat Barack Obama, he must shift the focus of the last six weeks of the race to the president’s “policies, the failures of those policies, and what Romney would do to get the country back on the right track,” former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said.
“As long as the campaign coverage is about process, about polling, any time it’s not about jobs and the economy, and about serious policy and the results of policy, that’s bad for Romney,” said Barbour, who is helping raise money for American Crossroads, the super-political action committee co-founded by Karl Rove, the former chief political adviser to President George W. Bush.
Romney has “got to get the campaign back on the real issues that Americans talk about at the dinner table -- jobs, the economy,” Barbour said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
The Republican presidential nominee is trying to get his campaign back on track after his comment that 47 percent of Americans are government-dependent and see themselves as “victims,” secretly recorded at a Florida fundraiser in May, was published this week. His remarks take the focus off Obama, Barbour said.
“It is not correct that 47 percent of Americans are on means-tested entitlements, on welfare,” he said. “Many, many of those people are retired military” or recipients of Social Security benefits. Romney, Barbour said, should have said, “I made a mistake on that number” and moved on.
“That’s the real state of play,” he said. “Why? Not because people love Mitt Romney. They don’t know very much good about Mitt Romney. But they know Obama’s policies don’t deserve to be re-elected.”
Former President Bill Clinton, in an interview taped with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria to air tomorrow, said Romney’s comment on the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes being trapped in a cycle of dependency “puts a heavier burden on him in the debates, to talk about what he meant” next month.
“The 47 percent, those that are adults, they do pay taxes,” Clinton said, according to a transcript provided by CNN. “They pay Social Security taxes. They pay Medicare taxes. They pay state and local taxes.” And whenever “you have a recession this deep, spending goes up on things like unemployment and food stamps and Medicare,” he said.
Looking beyond the presidential campaign to Senate races on the Nov. 6 ballot, Barbour said Democrats had fielded “some of their best” candidates in Virginia and North Dakota. Still, he predicted the Republicans will win in those states.
He defended his call for Representative Todd Akin of Missouri to drop out as the Republican candidate challenging Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat.
Akin said in an Aug. 19 television interview that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy. He has declined calls to drop out from party leaders, including Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.
Barbour said he couldn’t pick Akin “out of a line-up with the Spice Girls” and that his concern is strategic. With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats wanting Akin to stay in because they see his candidacy weakening Republicans, Barbour said, “I just don’t want us having Harry Reid’s favorite Republican running against Claire McCaskill.”
Barbour also downplayed the notion that campaign cash will be the deciding factor in the November election.
Obama raised $84.8 million last month, while Romney raised $66.6 million and borrowed an additional $20 million secured by general-election campaign donations.
“My view has always been, you’ve got to have enough money,” Barbour said. “Necessarily spending the most money is not the point. Both of them will have plenty of money.”
Obama has raised a total of $441.3 million for his re- election to $283.6 million for Romney. The figures are based on disclosures filed Sept. 20 with the Federal Election Commission.
Including national political parties and allied super-PACs, however, Romney entered September with more cash to spend on his side than Obama, $165 million to $101 million.
To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at email@example.com