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Pointing to 14-year-old audio, Romney campaign tries to shift media scrutiny toward the president's words on policy.
The campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has had to undertake some heavy damage control this week, after Mother Jones magazine released video of Romney speaking at a private event in which he dismissed 47 percent of Americans as dependent on the state.
The video, which was released in segments, has since been scrutinized relentlessly, no doubt to the chagrin of Romney's campaign. In what appears to be the latest attempt to shift the focus off of the candidate's inelegant remarks, the Romney camp is trying to rewind the tape — all the way back to 1998.
That's when President Barack Obama — then a state senator in Illinois — was recorded speaking at Loyola University about effective governance policies that would "pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution," according to audio of the talk that has surfaced online.
In the tape, Obama continued: "Because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
Earlier in the tape, Obama had asked rhetorically, "We do have to be innovative in thinking, what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live?"
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Romney and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan have both seized on the word "redistribution" in appearances since. According to the Washington Post, Romney referenced the 14-year-old comments during a Tuesday interview with Fox News and a Wednesday fundraiser in Georgia.
“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 said in Atlanta, according to the Post. “It’s never been a characteristic of America.”
Ryan, during a Wednesday campaign stop in Virginia, echoed the message. "You know, President Obama said he believes in redistribution. Mitt Romney and I are not running to redistribute the wealth. Mitt Romney and I are running to help Americans create wealth," he said, according to the Associated Press.
White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed Romney and Ryan's comments as "desperate efforts made to change the subject," according to a transcript of a Wednesday press briefing.
"The charge based on this 14-year old video sounds very familiar to one that was tried and failed in 2008. Fourteen years ago, 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," Carney said.
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What do you think? Listen to the full audio from 1998 below: