Some said it was a message Americans needed to hear, others called it insulting.
Video of the speech was posted Monday by the Mother Jones magazine website. Romney, speaking at a $50,000 a plate fundraiser in Boca Raton in May told his audience that nearly half of the country thinks they're owed something by the government.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right? There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. .... These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of lower taxes doesn't connect. So he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years.
Romney didn't back away from the statement Tuesday. In an interview with FOX News, he said he views such redistribution as a "foreign concept" and that there is a "great divide" among Americans on the subject.
Appearing for a taping of the David Letterman show Tuesday, President Obama chided Romney for the remarks, saying anyone who wants to be president has to "work for everyone, not just for some."
Obama said "there are not a lot of people out there who think they are victims" or entitled.
Back in the Triangle, 68-year-old Romaine Moessner has spent the last two years of her retirement volunteering to re-elect President Obama. She relies on Social Security and Medicare- but said she's no freeloader.
"I have never been on welfare. Ii have never been on any government subsidies. The only thing I've collected is Social Security which I paid into," said Moessner.
She's one of many offended by Mitt Romney's comments.
But some think Romney's remarks were right on target. At Raleigh's conservative John Locke Foundation, Mitch Kokai told ABC11 he thinks Romney tapped into an argument his base has been waiting to hear.
"A lot of people who are conservative hear what Mitt Romney said and say 'Right on!'" Kokai offered. "This is what conservatives have been saying for a long time - that too many people are not carrying their weight and depending on the government to act on their behalf."
But Romney's comments could cost him politically. 49 percent of Americans receive some kind of government benefits, including veterans, retirees, and college students.
At a hastily arranged new conference Monday night, Romney offered no apologies, but said the comments were not "elegantly stated" and were spoken "off the cuff."
He said the remarks showed a contrast between Obama's "government-centered society" and his belief in a "free-market approach."