After a big debate win, some might question the timing of this walk back. But better to do it now than later.
Mitt Romney came full circle on his "47 percent" remarks Thursday night, calling them "just completely wrong" in an interview on Fox News.
When asked by host Sean Hannity what he would have said if President Barack Obama had brought up the controversial comments in the first presidential debate, the Republican nominee said that such stumbles happen while campaigning, and "in this case, I said something that's just completely wrong."
Echoing a line he had used previously to mitigate the remarks' fallout, Romney told Hannity that he cares about the "100 percent."
"I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent and that's been demonstrated throughout my life," Romney said. "And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent. When I become president it will be about helping the 100 percent."
Previously Romney had said his remarks, surreptitiously recorded during a private fundraiser in May, were not "elegantly stated." They included the comments that "47 percent" of voters are dependent upon government and do not pay income tax.
Many commentators on the left and right expressed surprise that Obama didn't broach the subject during Wednesday night's debate. On The O'Reilly Factor Thursday, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer called the omission "shocking."
Romney told Hannity it was obvious "the president wasn't happy with the response to our debate last night."
"It was an evening of substance. I'm happy Jim Lehrer was willing to ask us our positions on issues and we could describe those. It wasn't a big gotcha night coming from the moderator, but a chance for the president and I to go toe to toe on important issues people care about," Romney said.
However much those remarks set his campaign back - and there was some damage to be sure - Romney had begun to right the ship even before the debate. Whatever poll damage there was, the candidate was already surging back to within a couple of points by the time the debate began.
There was no good time to walk back the comments that the 47% are all Obama supporters because they don't pay any taxes - a serious gaffe. But after seeing his favorability numbers rise above 50% for the first time in the campaign after the debate, the admission may actually work to his advantage. It lances a boil that might have been a problem in future debates, while removing a potent attack line for his opponent.
Americans love to forgive and admitting a mistake shouldn't damage him in any significant way.