Hoping to help Mitt Romney reframe the debate sparked by his comments on social class and taxes, Republicans are pointing to a newly resurfaced 14-year-old audio recording of Barack Obama appearing to endorse the redistribution of wealth.
"There is a tape that just came out today where the President is saying he likes redistribution. I disagree," Romney said in an afternoon interview with Fox News.
The audio, posted to YouTube by an unidentified user and dated Oct. 19, 1998, appears to be of remarks by then-Illinois State Sen. Obama at a conference at Loyola University in Chicago.
"Let me just close by saying, as we think about the policy research surrounding the issues that I just named - policy research for the working poor, broadly defined - I think that what we're going to have to do is resuscitate the notion that government action can be effective at all," he says.
"There has been a systematic - I don't think it's too strong to call it a 'propaganda campaign' against the possibility of government action and its efficacy. And I think some of it has been deserved. The Chicago Housing Authority has not been a model of good policy making, and neither necessarily has been the Chicago Public Schools. What that means then is that as we try to resuscitate this notion that we're all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative in thinking what are the delivery systems that are effective and meet people where they live.
"And my suggestion, I guess, would be that the trick - and this is one of the few areas where I think there are technical issues that have to be dealt with as opposed to just political issues - I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution," he said, "because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure everybody's got a shot."
The Romney campaign signaled that it plans to make the comments a focal point of its messaging in the coming days. It appeared to be an attempt in part to try and deflect criticism from Democrats over Romney's surreptitiously-recorded comments referring to Obama supporters as people who are "dependent on the government" and feeling "entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."
Some Republicans outside the Romney campaign, including conservative talk host Rush Limbaugh, called on Romney Tuesday to "finally take the gloves off" and "start explaining liberty to people and what it means, and explain that they don't have to be in that 47 percent."
"I think a society based upon a government-centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that's the wrong course for America," Romney told Fox. "We believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution. The right course for America is to create growth, create wealth, not to redistribute wealth."
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Romney's attack on comments Obama made 14 years ago is a sign the Republican nominee is "so desperate to change the subject."
"Fourteen years ago, then-Senator Obama was making an argument for a more efficient, more effective government - specifically citing city government agencies that he didn't think were working effectively," LaBolt said. " He believed then, and believes now, that there are steps we can take to promote opportunity and ensure that all Americans have a fair shot if they work hard. Unlike Governor Romney, he doesn't believe that if you're a student who applies for a loan you're looking for a handout."