Palm Beach County Republican chair Sid Dinerstein hopes Mitt Romney sticks by the secretly recorded remarks that have shaken the political world this week.
Dinerstein attended the now-infamous May fundraising event in Boca Raton but was not included in the exclusive $50,000-a-plate dinner at which Romney made controversial comments about the Middle East peace process and the nearly half of all Americans who do not pay federal income tax.
The GOP leader encouraged Romney to turn lemons into lemonade by using the controversy to refocus the general election debate.
“I’ll tell him not to back off these statements, but to turn them into real arguments for the country to have,” Dinerstein said.
Dinerstein recalled that Romney also spoke at the somewhat larger gathering for smaller donors earlier in the evening. That speech was not recorded, and Dinerstein didn’t remember much of what he said. Afterwards, Dinerstein spoke privately with the candidate for roughly two minutes.
“I remember talking to him about how happy I was that he was staying on point — at that time the point being jobs,” Dinerstein recalled.
The extensive video of Romney’s remarks at the dinner for major donors reveals the candidate characterizing the roughly half of Americans who don’t pay income taxes as sure-thing Obama voters.
Romney also characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as hopelessly complex and suggested he would not spend much effort tackling it.
“We have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it,” Romney said. “We kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
He also misstated the distance between Tel Aviv and the West Bank, describing the Israeli city as far closer to the Palestinian territory than it actually is.
The event was hosted by Marc Leder, one of a handful of Jewish donors described by the Forward in March as backing the pro-Romney super PAC.
Leder, who runs private equity firm Sun Capital, has a history of supporting mostly Republican candidates, though he gave $2300 to Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2007. Schultz is now chair of the DNC.
Dinerstein is attending a similar Romney fundraiser in Florida tomorrow, to be hosted by former ambassador and RNC finance chair Al Hoffman. He’s hoping to get the chance to deliver a message of support in person.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.