Mitt Romney's Campaign Denies Racial Tone to Welfare Ad

Top Romney adviser says he's "surprised" people would find racial element in ad.

By SHARE
Mitt Romney, right, on Michigan primary day with adviser Ron Kaufman, left, and press secretary Eric Fehrnstrom, center, in Southfield, Mich., Jan. 15, 2008. (LM Otero/AP)
Mitt Romney, right, on Michigan primary day with adviser Ron Kaufman, left, and press secretary Eric Fehrnstrom, center, in Southfield, Mich., Jan. 15, 2008. (LM Otero/AP)

TAMPA – A senior adviser for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney denied the campaign was engaging in race politics by airing a television advertisement that accuses President Barack Obama of "gutting" the welfare work requirement.

Fact-checkers have labeled the ad as inaccurate, because what the Obama administration actually did was allow governors to apply for waivers to the existing work requirements—which they say is outdated—only if states show that their new approach results in a 20 percent increase in employment of welfare recipients.

[Read: Racism shows its face in presidential campaign.]

But beyond the facts, many analysts have said by accusing the first African-American president of weakening welfare, the Romney campaign is sending racist 'dog-whistles' to white voters.

Ron Kaufman, a longtime political consultant for the Romney campaign, strongly denied the accusation when questioned at a National Journal/Atlantic forum on Tuesday.

"You're playing the race card here—we're not and we would never do it," he said. "This ad has nothing to do with race—we are not the ones who eased the restrictions on welfare to work, the president did it. It's a very important issue and it should be talked about. I am surprised that you raised that."

[Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.]

Kaufman said it's true that "both parties have traditional groups that support them for one reason or another" but he argued that Romney would perform better than expected with minorities.

"When people look at Mitt Romney I think traditional voting patterns will change. I think he'll do a lot better with those groups you mentioned than most polls show," he said.

Romney also was criticized for joking before a campaign crowd in his home state of Michigan that he was born there and "no one has ever asked me for my birth certificate," a reference to the fringe theory that Obama was not born a United States citizen.

Likewise, many Republicans accused Vice President Joe Biden of racist remarks when he claimed those who support deregulating Wall Street wanted to put "y'all back in chains" before a mixed race audience at a campaign event.

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.

  • See the latest political cartoons
  • Visit the U.S. News Election 2012 website for breaking coverage
  • Follow U.S. News Debate Club on Twitter