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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Senate Republicans Not Eager to Discuss Romney Video


Republican leaders in the Senate on Wednesday were intent on showing Mitt Romney how it's done: blast President Obama for his lack of leadership, castigate his economic record, then flee.

It is a time-honored ritual, while the Senate is in session, to hold mini-news conferences after the two parties break away from their weekly policy luncheons. Party leaders spout the party line. Reporters ignore their opening statements and ask questions about the issue of the moment. Everyone leaves happy.

But on Wednesday, Republican leaders broke tradition. The party line stuff was well-represented, by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Thune of South Dakota, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Roy Blunt of Missouri. But when the last word was spouted, they turned en masse and fled, no questions taken.

The reason was obvious: While the senators wanted to stay on message, the throng of reporters had one question in mind - the senators' thoughts on Mitt Romney and his 47 percent musings.

Before the lunches, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, a Republican in a tough election fight, joined other embattled candidates and broke with Mr. Romney.

“I have a very different view of the world having grown up with a father who was an auto mechanic and a mother who was a school cook and five brothers and sisters,” he said.

Senator Scott P. Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, reiterated his feelings about his nominee's notion that nearly half of Americans view themselves as victims entitled to government handouts.

“A lot of those people don't want to be in those situations. They want to work, and I'm going to continue to do the things I think will help them,” he said.

Democrats were gleefully twisting the knife. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, continued to needle Mr. Heller, whom, he has made clear, he would just as soon not return to the Senate next year.

Mr. Heller “recognized how toxic Romney's comments are, but that's interesting coming from someone who just a short time ago compared the unemployed people to hobos, that was his word, hobos,” Mr. Reid said. He was referring to a 2010 comment when Mr. Heller, then a House member, questioned extending unemployment benefits by asking, “Is government now creating hobos?”

“We have a long line of people who are running from Romney as if the Olympics are still on,” Mr. Reid added.

Chased down in flight, Mr. Blunt declined to say how much the Romney comments were roiling the Republican conversation. “I just don't think we ought to talk about what was said at lunch,” he said.