Mitt Romney's presidential bid, already pushing back against suggestions that he was losing ground to President Obama, confronted more difficulty Monday when a secretly taped video showed him describing nearly half the nation's population as "dependent on government" and unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.

At a hastily called news conference Monday night in Costa Mesa, where he was holding a fundraiser, Romney said that he had chosen his words poorly but he did not back away from their substance.

"It's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way," he said, adding that "it's a message which I'm going to carry and continue to carry — which is, look, the president's approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because, frankly, my discussion about lowering taxes isn't as attractive to them, and therefore I'm not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those who are in the middle."

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This story was reported by Times Staff Writer Seema Mehta.