Mitt Romney '47 percent' comment: Bill Clinton says it puts a 'heavier burden' on Romney in debates

(CNN) -- Republican nominee Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comment will put "a heavier burden on him in the debates," former President Bill Clinton said Thursday.

Fresh off a rousing speech to the Democratic National Convention, the popular Democrat told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that Romney will have to further explain comments captured on a secretly recorded video at a private fund-raising event in May, where the GOP nominee said nearly half of Americans will automatically vote for the president because they are dependent on government and consider themselves "victims."

Asked if Romney's comments will significantly alter the race for the White House, Clinton said, "I think it puts a heavier burden on him in the debates to talk about what he meant."

President Barack Obama and Romney will face-off in three presidential debates in October. And while Obama currently has an advantage over Romney in recent polls, the debate performances could tilt the already tight race.

Since the video was posted to the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones earlier this week, Romney has admitted the lack of eloquence in his remarks but stood by the crux of his argument.

Clinton, conceding that some Americans are trapped in a cycle of dependency, touted bipartisan welfare reform achieved during his presidency and noted that the amount the U.S. government spent during his administration on entitlement programs was "not out of line with other advanced countries."

"The 47%, those that are adults, they do pay taxes. They pay Social Security taxes. They pay Medicare taxes. They pay state and local taxes," said Clinton on Romney's comments in an interview that will air in full on Sunday.

"But all of those people who don't pay ordinary income tax would love to be back paying ordinary income tax. They'd love to have a full-time job instead of a part-time job, or any job at all, or be able to get a pay raise."

But with Romney's potentially damaging comments and the president's recent advantage in polls, is an electoral landslide feasible?

"It's possible," said Clinton, though he added it depends on the turnout of younger voters, a group the president carried handily in 2008.

"I still think you have to assume it's going to be a close race, assume it's a hard fight and then fight through it," said Clinton. "But I think the president has the advantage now. We did have a very good convention. He got a good boost out of it."

 
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