DENVER – Move over, Mitt Romney. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez went after the "47 percent" two years before a similar comment caused trouble for Romney's presidential campaign.
Beauprez told a meeting of the Denver Rotary Club on April 8, 2010 that "we've got almost half of the population perfectly happy that somebody else is paying the bill."
Those remarks were first reported by the Denver Post on Wednesday as Beauprez joined his former rivals for the Republican nomination on a statewide Unity Tour.
In his speech "Is Washington at War with Prosperity?" Beauprez echoed a not-uncommon conservative suggestion that Democrats want to create a class of Americans reliant on the government who will always vote to preserve those benefits by electing Democrats.
"I submit to you that there is a political strategy to get slightly over half and have a permanent ruling political majority by keeping over half of the population dependent on the largesse of government that somebody else is paying for," Beauprez said in 2010.
The rest of the speech highlights standard Republican messages of economic freedom, self-reliance and opportunity for all.
But it was Beauprez's comments about the 47 percent of Americans who effectively pay no federal income tax that drew criticism from Democrats.
"It's ironic that Congressman Beauprez is accusing half of Coloradans of being "takers", including veterans and seniors, but now he is on a Unity Tour across the state," said Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party.
"After Coloradans have worked together to recover from fires and floods, the last thing we need is the divisive type of extreme rhetoric that Bob Beauprez has spent his career peddling," Palacio said.
Beauprez's campaign countered that the 2010 speech was intended to highlight the dismal state of the American economy, not cast aspersions on low income Americans.
"In full context, it's clear he's saying that it's sad more people are not doing well enough to pay federal income tax," said spokesman Dustin Olson.
(See below for a transcript and video of Beauprez's 2010 remarks)
"Bob's focused on strengthening our economy so more people have jobs and can prosper. Like Bob has been saying we should be focused on lifting people up and creating more opportunity," Olson said. "It's an unfortunate fact that after years of President Obama and Gov. Hickenlooper's failed policies, that too many hardworking Americans are not making enough money to pay taxes."
Beauprez's comment about the 47 percent is not identical to the musing that Romney acknowledged to Fox News did "real damage" to his campaign.
Romney was recorded at a closed door fundraiser writing off the 47 percent saying he didn't "worry about those people" and that they would support President Obama "no matter what."
Beauprez's remarks were made in public and, while suggesting that nearly half of all Americans are "perfectly happy" being dependent on the government, he didn't say he wasn't concerned about those voters or dismissive of earning their support.
Unlike Beauprez, Romney apologized.
Watch Beauprez's comments in 2010 below. (transcript begins at 5:35):
BEAUPREZ: 47 percent of all Americans pay no federal income tax. I'm guessing that most of you in this room are not in that 47 percent. God bless you. But what that tells me is that we've got almost half of the population perfectly happy that somebody else is paying the bill. And most of that half is you all. I submit to you that there is a political strategy to get slightly over half and have a permanent ruling political majority by keeping over half of the population dependent on the largesse of government that somebody else is paying for.
Watch Romney's comments about the 47 percent: