GREENVILLE, S.C. – Mitt Romney on Friday sought to clarify comments he made about Medicaid after Democrats seized on an earlier comment of his that he didn’t understand what the program was until he started working in government.
At a campaign event in Sioux Falls, Iowa, Romney told an audience in a discussion about Medicare and Medicaid: “I have to admit I didn’t know all the differences between these things before I got into government. And then I got into it and understood that Medicaid is the health care program for the poor, by and large."
His comment led the Democratic National Committee to try to further the impression of Romney as being out of touch –- something the party has done aggressively since his remark at last week’s debate about offering Rick Perry a $10,000 bet.
DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse sent a sarcastic email noting that Romney was elected Massachusetts’ governor in 2002. "Mitt Romney was 55 when he learned what Medicaid was? He went through a Senate race and a governor’s race without knowing what Medicaid was? He didn’t know what Medicaid was until he became governor?"
To a small group of reporters traveling with him from Iowa to South Carolina -- where he went to accept the endorsement of Gov. Nikki Haley -- Romney clarified that the casual remark was a reference to when against Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994. He said he had consulted health care groups in the private sector on Medicare and Medicaid prior to running, but not on the fine details of each.
Romney's spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, also issued a statement: “Democrats are continuing their campaign of distortion and distraction because President Obama’s policies have failed the middle class in America … Instead of focusing on out-of-control spending and record unemployment, President Obama and his political machine are focused on campaigning to try and tear down Mitt Romney.”