Mitt and Ann Romney mounted a fightback on Tuesday as they rejected allegations that the Republican presidential candidate had "written off" the poorest half of America.
Refusing to back down from secretly-recorded claims that 47% of voters took no responsibility for their lives, Romney instead tried to recast the remark as part of his core campaign message.
In a memo titled "Two visions for America", his campaign manager Matt Rhoades suggested Romney's ambition was actually to help the now-notorious "47%" paying no federal income tax.
"Mitt Romney's vision for America is an opportunity society, where free people and free enterprise thrive and success is admired and emulated, not attacked," said Rhoades. "President Obama's vision for America is a government-centred society, where government grows bigger and more active, occupying more of our everyday lives".
Romney was recorded telling donors in Florida that almost half the US was dependent on handouts and "believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you name it". "My job is not to worry about those people," he told guests at the $50,000-a-plate fund-raiser. "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
In a television attack advertisement, a pro-Obama campaign group contrasted the glitzy venue for Romney's fund-raiser with an ordinary American house. "Behind these doors, Mitt Romney calls half the American people victims," a narrator says over the first image. "Behind these doors, middle-class families struggle," he says over the second.
Romney, who was dispatched to defend the remarks in the battleground state of Colorado, rejected the suggestion her husband showed disdain for the poor. "He's talking about what we're facing in America right now," Romney told local television. "And if we don't take corrective measures soon, more and more people will become dependent on government. And that is not what we want."