McLEAN, Va. – Virginia Republican George Allen became the latest Senate candidate to distance himself from Mitt Romney’s claim that the 47% of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes think of themselves as victims dependent on the government.
“I have my own point of view, and my point of view is people of America still believe in the American dream,” Allen said in a televised debate Thursday with Democrat Tim Kaine. The two former governors are in a tight race for the seat now held by Sen. Jim Webb, who is retiring.
“They don’t look at themselves as victims,” Allen said. “They want a government that reflects their values and gives them the opportunity to reach their aspirations.”
Kaine called Romney’s comments “condescending and divisive” and said it was easy to see why Virginians would disagree with that sentiment.
Romney’s remarks at a private fundraiser in Florida, which were secretly recorded, have dominated the political landscape since the video was released by Mother Jones magazine this week. The Virginia candidates' views on the 47% was the first question in the state’s first Senate debate of the campaign season.
At least three other Republican Senate candidates facing tough races have sought to distance themselves from Romney’s comments. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who delivered a full-throated indictment of President Obama at the GOP convention last month, also backed away from Romney’s remarks.
A once reliable Republican stronghold, Virgina is one of the top battlegrounds in the contest for control of the Senate this fall, as well as in the presidential race. New polls this week show Kaine taking a lead for the first time over Allen, and Obama holding a lead over Romney.
[For the record, 12:55 p.m. Sept. 20: An earlier version of this post said Allen called Romney’s comments “condescending and divisive.” It was Kaine who used those words to describe Romney’s remarks.]