Mitt Romney has called his controversial remarks about 47 percent of US voters "completely wrong."
It's the first time Romney has disowned the comments since they came to light last month, despite Democrats making heavy use of them to portray the Republican nominee as out-of-touch and unsympathetic.
Many were surprised that Barack Obama didn't use Romney's words against him in Wednesday night's debate – but Romney, asked Thursday by Fox News' Sean Hannity what he would have said if Obama had, claimed he would not have attempted to defend them:
"Clearly, in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you are going to say something that doesn't come out right.
"In this case I said something that was just completely wrong. And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent [...] This whole campaign is about the 100 percent. When I become president, it will be about helping the 100 percent."
Romney originally said his 47-percent remarks, which were filmed secretly at a private fundraiser, were "not elegantly stated" but otherwise reflected his low-tax, small-government message.
According to The Atlantic Wire, which has tracked the evolution of the Romney campaign's position on the speech, the closest the candidate has come to admitting a mistake was when his vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, described the remarks as a "misstep."
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What Romney has said repeatedly since the video surfaced is that he represents "all Americans."
That message didn't seem to hit home, however, especially when the Democrats turned the 47-percent line into a powerful line of attack. According to a recent poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, almost six in 10 voters nationally said that, if Romney became president, he would do more to help the wealthy than the middle class.
There's no doubt the remarks have hurt Romney, one of his advisers admitted to the Post. Speaking before Wednesday, the unnamed source said Romney had been preparing to address the issue in the debate, and would even have welcomed the opportunity "to adequately explain it."
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The question now is whether Romney has adequately explained it. He didn't go into why he said something that he now thinks is "completely wrong." And, as Democratic strategist Robert Shrum told the Post, one of the reasons the remarks stuck in voters' minds is that, unlike at many of his public appearances, Romney appeared so confident and fluent when he made them – which, Shrum says, led many to conclude: "'Wow, that really is the real Romney.'"