Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney caused a stir on Monday and potentially jeopardised his national ratings deep in the election campaign season when a leaked video of a speech he gave at a private gathering showed him saying that 47 per cent of the U.S. population did not pay income tax and had an “entitlement” approach towards government largesse, and that his job was “not to worry about those people”.

At the speech — delivered at the residence of private equity manager Marc Leder on May 17 according to Mother Jones, the non-profit news organization that obtained the scoop —the former Massachusetts Governor’s critical remarks also included a comment that “the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace”.

Further discussing the 47 per cent of Americans, who support President Barack Obama, Mr. Romney could be seen telling that they were a group “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it”.

The video — freely circulating on the Internet — comes even as ten out of eleven national polls put Mr. Obama ahead of Mr. Romney narrowly, by around 3 percentage points. According to a report by Real Clear Politics the multi-poll average, which includes all major polls such as Rasmussen, CNN, Fox News, Gallup and the New York Times, puts Mr. Obama at 48.5 per cent to Mr. Romney’s 45.5 per cent.

Meanwhile Mr. Obama’s campaign team wasted no time pouncing on Mr. Romney’s, with his Twitter handle “TruthTeam2012” saying, “Romney criticizes half of America for believing they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing.” They also re-tweeted, a remark saying, Mr. Romney’s comment on the 47 per cent “seems a stereotype of an unsympathetic venture capitalist – going to be hard to overcome among non-base voters.”

Swinging into damage-control mode after the controversy erupted, Mr. Romney said at a news conference on Monday evening that his remarks were “not elegantly stated”, but that he believed Mr. Obama's approach was “attractive to people who are not paying taxes”.

The gaffe comes weeks before Mr. Romney squares off with the President in a series of three debates, to be held in Denver, Colorado; Hempstead, New York; and Boca Raton, Florida. Among the issues they will discuss are foreign policy questions, an area of debate that Mr. Romney’s critics suggest he does not have sufficient experience in.

After causing a furore with cultural relativist explanations for economic underdevelopment in Palestine during a recent visit to the region, the video showed Mr. Romney once again addressing the controversial issue when he said, “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel... The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world.”

He also touched upon the U.S.’ difficult relationship with Iran, saying “If I were Iran — a crazed fanatic — I’d say let’s get a little fissile material to Hezbollah, have them carry it to Chicago or some other place, and then if anything goes wrong, or America starts acting up, we’ll just say, ‘Guess what? Unless you stand down, why, we’re going to let off a dirty bomb’.”

More In: International | News