Romney slammed for ‘gifts’ comment about minorities, young voters

Mitt Romney  (AP Photo)

(CNN) — Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana fiercely shot back at Mitt Romney’s claim Wednesday that President Barack Obama outmatched the 2012 Republican presidential nominee by offering “gifts” to African-Americans, Hispanics and young voters.

“I absolutely reject that notion,” Jindal, who was a surrogate for Romney’s campaign, said at the Republican Governors Association conference in Las Vegas. “I think that’s absolutely wrong.”

“I don’t think that represents where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party,” he continued. “That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election.”

Romney made the comments on a call with top donors Wednesday afternoon, various news outlets have reported. The former Massachusetts governor also made similar arguments on a separate call earlier in the morning, CNN confirmed.

“What the president, president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote,” Romney said in the afternoon call, according to audio aired on ABC News.

Romney, who lost to Obama by 126 electoral votes, said the president courted voters by offering policies – some of them this election year – that appealed to key constituencies.

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” Romney said, according to The New York Times.

“Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women,” he continued. “And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care reform plan, he added, also brought out support from African Americans and Hispanic voters.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

But Jindal, when asked about Romney’s remarks, said in order for the GOP to be “competitive,” it has to “go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote.”

Jindal’s criticism seemed to take latent swipes at Romney’s “47%” comments that were secretly recorded earlier this year. At a May fund-raiser, Romney argued that nearly half of Americans were “victims” who were “dependent” on the government. Those voters, he argued, sided with Obama.

A spokesperson for Romney, who has stayed away from the public spotlight since losing the election last week, did not return a request for comment about the call.

Romney had another call Wednesday morning with a couple dozen people who were part of the financial leadership of his campaign, but he did not make the same “gifts” comment.

The former nominee did say on that call that he really respected how the Obama administration was able to “craft” specific policies that ended up attracting the support of key demographic groups. He mentioned contraceptive coverage, as well as student loan policies that were important for young adults, according to one participant on the call.

He said he was sorry and disappointed that he lost but added his team had put everything it could into the election.

“We didn’t leave anything on the field,” one donor on the call told CNN.

He talked about how turnout was a lot lower this year, mentioning how the president got fewer votes than he did four years ago and that he got less than the 2008 Republican nominee, John McCain, received.

Romney told the donors he wanted to stay involved in public policy in some form, but he did not provide any details.

Romney’s remarks come after top Republicans in recent days have pushed for a bigger tent party, saying the GOP learned this election that it has work to do in terms of demographic changes.

“We’ve got to be a lot more inclusive and open and energetic and wanting people to join our team by expressing why these conservative values are good for people of all races, creeds, colors, and national origin,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, previously a top surrogate for Romney, said last week on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”

“We’ve just got to do a better job with that,” said McDonnell.

On the Democratic side, women and minorities made historic gains this election. For the first time, women and minorities will outnumber male Democrats in the House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate will have a record number of women — 20 – when the 113th Congress convenes in January.

Romney, on the 20-minute call, said he was “disappointed” with the final election tally and “hadn’t anticipated it.” Looking ahead, Romney said the party is “still so troubled by the past (that) it’s hard to put together our plans for the future,” according to The Los Angeles Times, which also appeared to be on the call.

Speaking to the donors, Romney praised them for their success in fundraising and suggested they help with “perhaps the selection of a future nominee – which, by the way, will not be me.”

The campaign’s finance chairman, Spencer Zwick, said on the call that Romney’s team had raised more than $900 million; Romney added he had not expected to take in more than $500 million, according to The Los Angeles Times.

This article was written and provided by Ashley Killough and Kevin Bohn with the CNN Wire.  TM & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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