What does Romney really think of the 47%? It's anyone's guess

At this point, "the 47%" Mitt Romney disparaged as moochers in a private talk to a conservative crowd hardly need an introduction or even that much description. The statement has dogged the GOP presidential candidate, though President Obama did not bring it up in this week's debate.

Romney, the day after the secretly recorded statements were revealed, acknowledged only that his wording had been inelegant but said he stood by the sentiment. Maybe he thought it was a minor campaign burp that would go away, or that he couldn't afford to be seen as even more of a mind-changer.

But now, Romney says that he was "completely wrong" in the way he characterized all people who don't pay federal income taxes as lazy folks who don't want to work. (Many are on Social Security, or are working people who pay other forms of payroll tax; there have been plenty of analyses showing how off base Romney was.)

TRANSCRIPT: First presidential debate

The ability to admit a big and insulting mistake is a good thing in a potential leader, though in this case it comes exceedingly late and after he'd already reaffirmed those sentiments. The problem at this point is figuring out what Romney really believes. Which statement represents the real Romney? The harsh words for 47% of Americans, or the one saying he was wrong? Which one would he say in front of a conservative group if he felt there were no chance of it getting out to the public? Which one would he say if he were alone in a soundproofed room? Or does it matter if it's really the latter, if he's willing to say something so incorrect and disparaging when he's in front of an audience that he feels wants to hear it?

As with many things about this candidate, answers about his beliefs don't come easily.


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