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Mitt Romney admits early ignorance about Medicaid program

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Mitt Romney this morning, in an apparent effort to connect with voters by empathizing over how complicated government can seem, instead invited criticism for admitting that he didn’t understand a core program until he himself entered government.

“You wonder what Medicaid is, those that are not into all this government stuff,” Mitt Romney said this morning in Sioux City, Iowa. “You know, 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.”


Romney later clarified, saying that he knew about the program, but didn’t know about all of the intricacies of it, including exactly how it was funded, until he ran against Senator Edward M. Kennedy in 1994.

Democrats immediately seized on his comments, though, as showing that he didn’t understand concerns of average Americans.

“One has to wonder how Mitt Romney thinks he can represent American workers, their families and seniors when his concern for the poor and the middle class comes across like an afterthought,” said Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Romney’s campaign accused the Democrats of blowing his comments out of proportion.

“Democrats are continuing their campaign of distortion and distraction because President Obama’s policies have failed the middle class in America,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. “…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.”

Romney made the comment this morning while making a larger point about changing entitlement programs. He said he would change the Medicaid program – which has its cost split between state and federal funding sources – and have the federal government give its share of the money to states so they could administer the program.


“There are differences between being poor in Mississippi, or Michigan, or Massachusetts, or Montana, or Iowa, or Ohio,” Romney said. “And so let states craft their own programs.”

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.