One Message for Voters, Another for Donors

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (left) signs autographs for supporters during a campaign event in Chantilly, Virginia, on May 2, 2012.
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has come under sharp attacks from his opponents on the left after a video leaked this week in which Romney said that 47 percent of Americans "believe that they are victims," and think that they are entitled to healthcare, food, and housing from the government.

The video was taken during a private fundraising event with Republican donors in May, and was leaked by Mother Jones. Some pundits have referred to the comments as a major gaffe for the candidate, though Romney said on Tuesday that he stood by his message. Either way, it seems the message for the donors is starkly different from the message delivered to the masses.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, says that the question is which message we should believe, and which we should see as most indicative of the candidate's actual beliefs and policies. 

"The question about these kinds of statements is, do they represent the candidate's actual attitudes, temperaments, and dispositions, or not? Are candidates simply pandering in this environment in order to gain money, or are they representing something that's real that will translate into governance?" 

There is a lot of cynicism in America about politics, and perhaps understandably so. When a candidate is delivering different messages to different audiences, it's difficult to know which message is closer to the truth. Jamieson says, "What we do know historically is that what candidates say in public, and say repeatedly, does tend to translate into governance." What we don't know, however, is whether these things said in private flesh out the ambiguities in their campaign message or not. It seems that only time will tell."