A New Tack For The GOP: Helping The Poor

Mitt Romney’s divisive remarks about America’s 47 percent continues to cast a long shadow over the Republican Party – and 2016 presidential hopefuls are trying to outrun it. Two frontrunners for the GOP nomination are raising an issue that has long been the preserve of the Democrats: the poor and how best to help them.

A year after Romney failed to unseat President Obama, ambitious Republicans seeking to make themselves into national figures and redefine their party are distancing themselves from the former Massachusetts governor and his inability to come across as a guy who cares about the down and out.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell says the 47 percent line has become a buzzword, reminding voters that Republicans hate poor people. “That is something that is strapped, right or wrong, to the Republican brand,” he said. “If [Republicans] want to win the White House or to get into a position of power again, they’re going to have to break that label.”

The current fight over the budget and Farm Bill, both currently being negotiated between House Republicans and Senate Democrats, highlights the GOP’s problem. If no budget agreement is reached because Republicans, led by Ryan, refuse to accept any tax increases, Democrats will be able to attack them for refusing to ease painful spending cuts by closing tax loopholes for the rich.

Same goes for the Farm Bill, where Republicans want to cut the food stamps program, which helps feed one in seven Americans, by nearly $40 billion. 

“It doesn’t look good,” O’Connell said, conceding that the public perception of the battle over food stamps is not helping Republicans shake their bash-the-poor reputation. “Republicans need to take a look at their policies,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, the optics of ‘Do you care about me?’ is what’s killing them.”

Read more from Pema Levy at Newsweek

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