* Democrats target Republican's "shocking comment"
* Republican sees comments as "one- or two-day story"
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Sept 18 Two Republican U.S. Senate
candidates in close races disowned Mitt Romney's "47 percent"
comments on Tuesday, signaling concern about the impact of his
words on Republican fortunes beyond the presidential race.
Democrats, sensing a new opportunity to influence
congressional contests, were busy trying to link Republicans
generally with Romney's remarks. The Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee showered dozens of districts with news
releases tying specific Republican candidates to Romney's
Linda McMahon, Republican Senate candidate in Connecticut,
was worried enough to issue a statement criticizing Romney.
"I disagree with Governor Romney's insinuation that 47
percent of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on
the government for their care. I know that the vast majority of
those who rely on government are not in that situation because
they want to be," her statement said.
McMahon, who lost a 2010 Senate bid in Connecticut, is in a
close race against former U.S. Representative Chris Murphy.
Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, running a tight race
against Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren to retain his
seat in a traditionally Democratic state, sounded a similar
In statement to The Hill, a publication specializing in
Congress, he said of Romney's views: "That's not the way I view
the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know
that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants
to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being
forced into public assistance for lack of jobs."
In the video, the first part of which was published on
Monday by the liberal Mother Jones magazine, Romney told donors
that 47 percent of Americans would back Obama no matter what and
"my job is not to worry about those people."
In theory, at least, Romney's comments had the potential to
offend millions of voters directly.
About 46 percent of U.S. households paid no federal income
tax in 2011, according to the bipartisan Tax Policy Center,
although almost two-thirds of those paid an employment tax to
support the Social Security and Medicare programs.
It is axiomatic that a strong presidential nominee can boost
the chances for other party candidates, particularly those in
close U.S. Senate races.
But the presidential candidate can also hurt those farther
down the ticket.
While a single comment might not alter particular races, a
lagging campaign could.
Republican Representative Steven LaTourette of Ohio, who is
retiring from Congress, defended Romney's remarks, but said they
"don't help i n swing districts like mine."
"People were ready to throw Obama over, like dumping a
boyfriend, and were ready to be courted by a new boyfriend," he
said. "But now they're having second thoughts," LaTourette said.
Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma called
Romney's remarks "an unfortunate choice of words," but predicted
the comments would be "a one- or two-day story."
"The election is going to turn on the economy," Cole said.
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato,
whose "Crystal Ball" blog closely tracks congressional races,
said Romney's performance would be particularly influential in
Senate races in Virginia, Connecticut, Montana, North Dakota and
"Scott Brown can't survive much more undertow in
Massachusetts," he said.
George Allen, the Republican Senate contender in Virginia,
"depends on a Romney win," Sabato added.
"As I go through the states, I'd say Romney's performance
will help to determine most of the close Senate contests," he
said in an email interview.
"It's going to be very difficult for Republicans to take
over the Senate if Romney doesn't capture the White House.
That's a different evaluation than a year ago when the GOP
looked to be a good bet to grab the Senate."