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His infamous "47 percent" remark was taken out of context, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney tells The Washington Post in a new interview.

The oft-cited quote was widely interpreted as the 2012 GOP nominee stating that 47 percent of Americans can’t be persuaded to take personal responsibility.

Romney says that’s not what he was implying at all.

Mitt Romney on Obama Voters

"Actually, I didn’t say that," he says. "That’s how it began to be perceived, so I had to ultimately respond to the perception, because perception is reality."

The Mitt Romney 47 percent comment was made at a May 2012 closed-to-the-press fundraiser in Florida, where he made his pitch to donors:


"And so my job is not to worry about those people … I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

"What I have to do is convince the 5-10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other."

Romney told the Post that the focus of his remarks was on swing voters, not on those who were already in President Barack Obama’s camp.

"[I]t was saying, ‘Look, the Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I’ve got to get the people in the middle.’"

"They’ve got a bloc of voters, we’ve got a bloc of voters, I’ve got to get the ones in the middle. And I thought that that would be how it would be perceived."

Romney’s argument that the remarks were taken out of context is a new defense for him … and doesn’t quite explain the "care for their lives" bit.

In the run-up to the election, Romney at first stood by the remarks, but said they were "not elegantly stated." Later on he said they were "completely wrong."

Romney nonetheless acknowledged that the quote was "very damaging" to his campaign, and based on the 2012 election results, it’s hard to argue.