Political experts have mixed reviews on whether Mitt Romney’s “off-the-cuff” statements describing President Obama’s supporters as irresponsible freeloaders who don’t pay taxes will be the death of his campaign.

“His campaign is pretty much over,” Lester Spence, professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, said after Romney Sept. 17 stood by remarks made in May about those who don’t pay taxes.

Some think otherwise, saying most voters have already decided who they’re going to cast their ballots for in November.

“Some people see it as a game-changer. But the folks, who are going to be upset by his comments would not have voted for him in the first place. I don’t see it as being the nail in his coffin,” said Gabriel Sanchez, associate professor of political science at the University of New Mexico.

In the video, which was obtained by the magazine {Mother Jones}, Romney chatted with a small group of well-heeled donors about his campaign strategy and foreign policy ideas.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” he said at the May 17 fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla. “There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”

He went on to say that his “job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

According to {The Associated Press}, Romney stood by his potentially offensive statements during a hurried press conference on Sept. 17.

“It’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I was speaking off the cuff in response to a question. And I’m sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that,” Romney said.

Inelegant or not, Romney’s statements were rife with “inaccuracies” and “a sense of disdain,” Spence, the Hopkins professor said.

“He’s never expressed any great concern for poor communities in general,” the political analyst said. “I don’t agree with a lot of things Obama does but at least he tries to govern everybody and has an understanding of what normal people are going through because of his own background.”

Spence continued, “This has been the Republican Party platform for a while—he’s just saying it out loud.

“There’s this sense in the GOP that there’s this large group of people who don’t pay taxes…. they don’t take into account that to the extent that there is a population of people who don’t pay taxes, that population was created by their policies. In order to get Americans to support tax cuts at the higher end, Republicans created large tax cuts for everybody.”

Additionally, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, while 46 percent of Americans did not owe federal income taxes in 2011, they paid other taxes. And about 16 million elderly Americans don’t pay taxes because of age-specific tax breaks.

Political experts say these statements will not help rejuvenate Romney’s sagging campaign, particularly among African-American and Hispanic voters.

In the video, Romney acknowledged his struggle with Latino voters. Speaking of his father, the GOP candidate joked, “Had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this.”

He later commented, “We are having a much harder time with Hispanic voters, and if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting bloc has in the past, why, we’re in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.”

President Obama could get a small boost from Romney’s troubles, according to experts.

“I think it will help the Obama campaign to rally his supporters and boost his fundraising,” Sanchez said.

It certainly provides more fodder for the Obama campaign’s anti-Romney advertising, added Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“The Obama campaign painted a picture of Romney as being out-of-touch, rich, uncaring and this plays into that,” the political analyst said. Still, in terms of the impact on voters, “I’m not sure how many will be won over by this. Those voters who hate Obama but have not warmed up to Romney may just decide not to vote for either guy.”

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO