Responding yesterday to Mitt Romney's comments that almost half the American electorate are dependents who believe they're entitled to government programs, running mate Paul Ryan was forced to take a much softer approach with a New Hampshire crowd yesterday.
'By promoting more dependency... people miss their potential,' Ryan told a town hall forum of supporters at the McConnell Community Center in Dover. 'We should not be measuring the progress of our social programs... based on how many people receive them. We should measure the success of our social programs based on how many people we transition off of them.'
According to the Boston Herald Ryan never directly addressed Romney's comments nor did the assembled crowd ask him about them.
Instead Ryan stuck to the campaign themes of reducing the national debt, promoting economic growth, creating jobs and portraying Romney as a businessman with crisis fixing skills.
'I’m kind of known as a budget-cutter in Congress,' Ryan said in response to one questioner.
It was Ryan’s first public appearance since news broke of a politically disastrous hidden camera video showing Romney telling a room full of wealthy voters at a $50,000.00 dollar a ticket event that 47 percent of Americans 'believe that they are victims. They believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it,' the former Governor said.
Romney later admitted that his bluntly dismissive comments were 'off the cuff' and not 'elegantly stated.' Later it emerged that in the same video Romney claimed that the Palestinians 'have no interest' in reaching a peace agreement with Israel.
To date Romney has not apologized for stating that almost half the electorate feel entitled to social protections — and many of his most ardent supporters at Ryan's campaign stop told the press he shouldn’t have to.
'The truth hurts,' said William Tappan told the Herald. 'He shouldn’t have said it because it’s not good politics. However, it’s the truth.'
'You have to cut him a little slack,' agreed fellow Romney supporter Peter Zavas. 'He was having a fundraiser. He was trying to rally people up.'
But conservatives have been divided on the wisdom of Romeny's claims. Writing in The New York Times yesterday commentator David Brooks wrote: 'The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.'
Potential GOP voters at Ryan's campaign stop in New Hampshire were having none of it, however.
'I would say most people would take it to mean that there’s some truth behind it,' said supporter John Allard. 'I wouldn’t think it would cost him any votes.'