DAVENPORT, Iowa — At a Monday afternoon rally here, Mitt Romney took a moment to list the local Republican candidates he's supporting — including one who has struggled to explain a gaffe similar to the presidential nominee's "47%" remarks.
"You've had the chance, I know, to get to know John Archer, who's a candidate for Congress. Want to make sure John gets elected again," Romney told the crowd Monday.
Archer, in fact, is running for the first time, in Iowa's 2nd District. And he drew criticism early this year during a radio interview, when he blasted half the country for leeching off the government.
"Some of our weaknesses here in America, you have an entitlement society," Archer said in an interview with KROS Radio in May. "You have 50 percent of the American population now believes that they are entitled to a government handout. That's a real weakness."
That sentiment, of course, was also present in a leaked fundraiser speech Romney gave in Boca Raton last spring, when he claimed 47 percent of Americans are unwilling to "take responsibility for their own lives," and plays to broader anger on parts of the right about "makers" versus "takers."
In a debate earlier this month, Archer was challenged on those remarks, when his opponent Dave Loebsack said he couldn't be trusted to look out for society's most vulnerable.
“To be perfectly blunt, I don’t think John is capable of being effective because he doesn’t understand what those folks are going through,” he said.
Both Romney and Archer have since softened their comments, but the shared struggle is reflective of the difficulty Republicans have had in effectively communicating small-government positions in an election year.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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