Coffee House

Mitt Romney attacks ‘victim’ Obama voters

18 September 2012

A secret recording of Mitt Romney talking to donors has been released by Mother Jones, a left-wing American magazine, and even to his wellwishers (myself included) it sounds dreadful. He declares that 47 per cent of Americans are ‘dependent’ on government and regard themselves as ‘victims’.

‘There are 47 per cent 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.’

In a press conference in California last night, he said his case was not ‘elegantly stated’ but says his figure stands. It’s true that 47 per cent of Americans don’t pay income tax (details here), it’s less clear how they are ‘dependent on government’. If you add Brits who derive most of their income from government jobs or welfare, you’d get to about half of registered voters. But it’s patronising and wrong to assume that these people will always vote for high-spending governments.

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Romney’s logic is shared by sections of both right and left in Britain. You do hear Tories moan that Big Government has employed half the electorate, so how can they be expected to win? Anthony Giddens once argued that Britain will move to a left-wing era when half of the electorate has a stake in Big Government. Both points are wrong, and are not borne out by the evidence.

Just last weekend, a YouGov poll (pdf) showed there is virtually no difference in support for the Tories and Labour in the private and public sectors.

Normally, Labour has an advantage amongst public sector workers – but it’s by no means a Tory-free zone. You can work for the civil service and be infuriated about government waste. You can be dependent on benefits and long for a growing economy that will help you not to be dependent on benefits. You can be a pensioner, deriving most of your income from the state and still curse the ‘easy money, low rates’ policies that destroyed the value of your annuity, and robbed you of anything resembling a return on your nest-egg. The Manichean private/public divide that exists in the minds of some on both left and right simply does not exist in the real world.

So Romney’s equivalence between support from the government and support of the government is not just insulting, but simply incorrect. American politics is becoming so polarised that this may not hurt him in the polls as much as you’d think. He may argue that (as Baroness Thatcher is said to have remarked) that it doesn’t matter how much the people who don’t vote for you don’t like you. But he has given a demonstration of what should – in the SmartPhone age – be a basic political lesson: never say in a private meeting what you wouldn’t say in a public one.

PS Guido has figures suggesting that 46 per cent is about right for Britain too.

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Show comments

    A poll being run by CNBC in US says SEVENTY-FIVE % AGREE with Romney.
    In fact he is wrong.
    1)The figure is 40%
    2)as Fraser says people are NOT Pavlovian dogs voting their interests by knee-jerk 3)lots are 65 + where Romney has a 20 point lead or VETERANS.
    By adjusting polls’ sample adjustments for HIGHLY DIFFERENT estimates made by firms of GOP/DEM/IND vote shares – see Nate Silver’s on ‘INHOUSE BIAS’
    – NYT is a pro-DEM newspaper so if he says bias is 2 per cent to GOP for and biases up to 6% to Dem.s for others it deserves credence – things are looking good for Romney. has a map based just on arithmetical voting averages and this is looking good for Romney too. As Karl predicted the movement is in the main to Romney from toss-up. Since starting O has fallen by about 40 electoral college votes and toss-up/R increased by 40. Even New Mexico and New Jersey may be in PLAY if polls are adjusted for INHOSE-BIAS.
    O has run a smear campaign – even if some mud sticks it does not stick for SIX MONTHS

  • Roy Smith

    If telling the truth is a crime then Romney is guilty. Which of course is a strange phenomena these days and hard to come by. The Democrats wouldn’t know what the word means, so the reason they are so startled when they hear it from a sneaky little undercover birdie. The hard fact is, good dirt stories are so impossible to find in the Mitt Romney camp they have to make do with a revelation of the truth.

  • The Masked Marvel

    First time Romney’s said something that makes him seem like someone who won’t govern like he did in Massachusetts and might get the Tea Partiers on side. The collective knicker-twisting at the BBC over him these past few days has been a joy to behold.

  • Poosh

    How do you know Romney is wrong, by looking at UK stats?

  • anyfool

    Are we really expected to take a You Gov poll seriously.

  • Baron

    Whatever Daniel here thinks Romney’s right, it ain’t either cost effective or even sensible for him to go after those who live on welfare if he wants to cut it, only a masochist welfare recipient would vote for him.

    As things stand, it doesn’t look likely he can dislodge the messiah, those who vote for living (together with those who dish out the paychecks) now outnumber those who work for living. Frankly, it matters not at all who wins, the Republic’s hunger for wealth creation has peaked anyway, now the culture of entitlements rules, it has imbedded in the psyche of the electorate so firmly it cannot be reversed through the political process, only a collapse of the culture will deliver common sense, self reliance, individual responsibility.

    • Daniel Maris

      That’s disgusting – suggesting everyone on welfare wants to stay on it. It’s also rubbish.

  • Kevin

    A few days ago, in the absence of any CH commentary on the most obvious American news story of the week – the assassination of US diplomats in Libya less than one year after David Cameron announced, “It is great to be here in free Benghazi” – I posted the following under Sebastian Payne’s BAE merger entry:

    What does the murder of their diplomats say about US relations with the rest of the world? What does Coffee House say about the murders? Should we expect any American analysis other than, “We all know the Republican candidate is a plonker”?

    I guess the answer is an emphatic, “No”.

    It is impossible to take CH seriously any more.

    • Dimoto

      I know Shiraz Maher is some raving loony, renegade, but it’s a bit unkind to totally ignore him.
      Or are you asking for the return of young Korski ?

  • Daniel Maris

    Well once again, I have to say told you so. This guy was always going to be a liability.

    Fraser, you might like to let him off the hook by presenting this as a statistical gaffe – whereas what we have here is an ethical black hole into which his candidature has disappeared. If you give the impression that half the electorate is of no concern to you, then your candidature is going to be sucked into the black hole, never to return.

    The same would be true if Obama said “I’m not interested in the white middle class vote.”

    I think this was quite an important moment in Western history. It’s the first time I can recall a democratic politician not keeping up the pretence about caring about the fate of all the people potentially under their guidance. It reflects I think his multi-millionnaire background, his callous approach to redundancies and his lack of interest in the real health and welfare of the people. The super-rich have created a parallel world in the USA.

  • WillLack

    no representation without taxation

  • 700islands

    Romney is saying that his “job” as a candidate, not President, is to run a strategy that goes after the independent swing vote rather than trying to win over the other side’s core vote. He says his message does not appeal to the other side’s core vote and he is right. That’s the first point. The second point is that this comment goes to the heart of the divide in this election between a big government and small government candidate. The big government people may well pounce on the “gaff”, the small government people may well cheer. This is the sort of thing they want to hear to get behind their man. It has fight in it. The question is how will the swing voters feel? Will they be offended the way liberal, cosmopolitan Brits are? I’m not sure. This will “play” alright, but maybe not in the way you see it.

  • Augustus

    “In a press conference in California last night, he said his case was not ‘elegantly stated’”
    And what he also should have said was, if he really didn’t care about the 47%, he would be pushing for policies that would result in higher unemployment, lower income, and more debt for their children, just like Obama has done these last few years.

  • LB

    So what’s the problem?

    The problem is that the state is bust. They have 7 trillion of debts, not the reported 1 trillion.

    Almost of of that is pensions. That excludes welfare.

    So if you are reliant on the state for your income, or you’ve been forced to ‘invest’ with the state (state pension, state second pension etc, or Post Office workers, Civil servants), its going to become very uncomfortable.

    The state is going to default, and the 45% of dependants are going to be hung out to dry.

    Far from helping you, the state is robbing you blind.

    • Raimo Kangasniemi

      The USA’s problem when it comes to state debt is that they have lowered taxes for individuals too much, have left far too many holes in their tax legislation for businesses and have spent far too much for their military adventures.

      Tax avoidance by companies alone costs them an estimated 300 billion dollars each year.

      • Curnonsky

        No, the problem is math: entitlement spending is increasing exponentially while the wage-earning population that pays for it is not. Increasing taxes to keep pace with entitlement spending would crush the American economy.

  • titus

    Mr Nelson, sir, I respectfully disagree with your conflation of political parties with their original ideology. A nurse who votes for the ‘conservative party’ does not a ‘Conservative’ make. The political choice here in the UK is narrower than you imply, in my opinion. Need I remind you of the outrageous tax bracket we now endure–under a supposedly ‘conservative’ government? Just what is conservative about Cameron’s party? Therefore, I think the polling with regards to party affiliation is misleading, and hides a more significant leftward trend.

  • ed martin

    and a quarter million (UK?) on fdarming and associated welfare benefits – tough isn’t it?

    but then they vote Tory – so that’s all —–?

  • Jez

    If anyone has the SKY news package, please watch Fox News. I say this because you can see something happen to either the GOP or the Obama admin’ and then either immediately aggressively ran with- or utterly dropped, by the liberal majority media over there.
    If it’s ran with by the majority Lib US media, then ‘immediately’ to two or three days later it regurgitates itself across the pond with our liberal media mob seizing the baton and smashing it into our news consumption.
    It’s what I call on by building sites i work on; political and ideoligical plagiarism. I often use it in conversations about X Factor or Big Brother in our tea breaks.
    Only an opinion; The Speccie lately (quite unfortunately) is pretending to be one thing but really is a completely different entity now.
    Is it going to get sorted…. time for team talk? :-(((

  • 2trueblue

    Obama won because he mobilised voters to actually get out and vote using the ‘modern’ communications tools. Since then we are all a bit jaded and less easily impressed and I think that the result will be harder to gauge. Of course the media love to draw attention to every little ‘tit bit’ which they deem important and frankly do not hit the horizon for the majority.
    Romney is not a diplomat and maybe that in the end is appealing.

    Getting the electorate out in the UK is getting more and more difficult. The ‘narrative’ is too shallow, but the BBC think it is how it all works, and Balls will get more and more airtime over the next 2yrs. The Telegraph is now a rag and there are no journalists of real quality to shine a light on matters.

    All in all the Libdums are truely not up to it , the Tories have no real strong policies that appeal, and we know that Labour will simply bury us further in debt. One thing is for sure, we have no fuel policy to carry us to work, deliver the goods and keep our houses warm. That could be our weakest link and not one party have provided any ideas or strategy. Labour over 13yrs. fluffed it and we are 2yrs into this administration and nothing there either.

  • Harriet_Vane

    Surely a minimum requirement for an democratically elected representative is respect for the entire electorate not a deep disdain for those who do not agree with you. Why on earth do deeply unpleasant misanthropes like Mr Mitt go into politics in the first place?

    • Augustus

      Mitt Romney shouldn’t just be announcing this in backrooms, but out in public. The more lefties think of this as a ‘blunder’ rather than a hard truth, the more difficult it will be to reverse a situation where half, or more, of the population is, one way or another, dependent on the state. It is one thing simply to be predisposed to a particular party, but quite another to be deeply engaged in the hero worship of a particular political leader.

    • Raimo Kangasniemi

      Because he thinks he owes it to his dearly departed dad to fulfill the old man’s dream of becoming a president? 😉

    • Curnonsky

      Why not ask the man who spoke patronizingly of members of his own party as “clinging to their guns and religion”?

  • Jez

    This publication has become about as convincingly Right wing (or even centre right wing) as an African lucky, lucky man attempting ‘cockney’ whilst putting on an accent to draw you to buy a snide tag-heuer on the Costa del Sol.

    Eg. Just taking the piss really.

    Ok. you want Obama in. We get it. What I don’t get is what’s the attraction to the liberal media elite (speccie now included)- is it his race? Only?
    I say this because everything this guys touched has been a seemingly unmitigated failure at best, disaster at worst. Economy, employment, stimulus packages…… and (whilst maybe seen in some quarters as throwing Israel under a bus) the ‘mother of all’ policy failures, probably the backing of the Arab Spring (Spring Awakening?).
    As an opinion only. What an over-confident, arrogant manipulator of the facts Obama and his team (that’s 90% of the Western msm included there, domestically and in Europe) have actually become to drive forward failure.

    • Hysteria

      Yup – any rational examination of this guy – what he has been quoted as saying, and what his policies haver brought about – would render this election a done deal for the GOP. Sadly, their team seems as inept as last time round…

      • Jez

        Laura Ingraham and Senator Palin were recently interviewed with exactly the same conclusion; If you can’t beat this bumbling, foreign / economic policy inept bunch of elitist liberal incompetents then it’s time to pack up and bugger off.
        Saying that, look at the last general election here regards the Conservatives and Brown’s sinking Labour ship. The Tories had to jump onboard the odd-ball express with Clegg and the rest of the Lib Dem left wing lunatics.
        Unbelievable. The media twisted that one as well.

    • Dimoto

      Don’t be daft all your life, this board is teeming with “ultra-rightists”.
      You don’t have to be a “lefty” to see that Romney the flake, is just a tragic mistake. Or do you also believe in armageddon and the second coming ?
      And what the hell does that have to do with British Conservatism ?

  • Jez


  • Augustus

    ” It sounds dreadful.” In that case, if context is so important, what else was said?

    • Raimo Kangasniemi

      Romney basically declared himself to be Netanyahu’s toilet paper if elected.

  • MichtyMe

    ” 47% not paying income tax” what’s wrong with that? I thought Romney and the right were all for not paying tax.

    • Fraser Nelson

      there are those on the right who want the income tax base as broad as possible, to give more people an incentive to vote for low-tax parties. I’ve never believed this, and to me the need to take the low paid out of tax comes first.

      • Jules

        What you mean Fraser, in reality, is that they want everyone to pay taxes so the rich can pay even less ie a flat tax! Ain’t NEVER going to happen, only in Gideon’s wet dreams.

      • LB

        Far simpler.

        Send everyone a bill for their share of the true government debt. Pensions included.

      • harold

        There are many reasons to broaden the tax base, but you’ve named the only one you can think of, apparently.

        That’ll be your homework assignment, then. Discover for yourself, and apparently for the first time, the reasons for a broader tax base, and its effects.

        Do that, and you might become something other than the doctrinaire leftist that you are.

      • Jupiter

        Democracy will end when a majority of the people can vote themselves free stuff from the government, the yanks are already at 47% – another 4 years of Barry and it’s game over.

        • AnotherDaveB

          There are limits. The geese emigrate.

      • Judge Dredd

        VAT, anyone? who do you think bears the greatest burden here? good luck removing the low paid from the tax base. this idea perfectly expresses why you’re not a conservative, Frasier.

  • UlyssesReturns

    Fraser, Fraser Fraser, you say “If you add Brits who derive most of their income from government jobs or welfare, you’d get to about half of registered voters. But it’s
    patronising and wrong to assume that these people will always vote for
    high-spending governments.” Err, the latest poll puts high-spending labour on 45%, or about half of the voters. Given that the labour lead is made up mostly of defecting libtards (I don’t see much to differentiate between labour and the libdems anyway) this 45% would be the: non-taxpayers, teachers, BBC employees, welfare and government jobs dependent client state that Blair and Brown/Balls so asiduously courted and subsidised. As the libdems are certain to sabotage the boundary changes and will almost certainly split and the more left-wing part will merge with labour in 2015, we are condemned to a left-wing future. I see by your stance and the general movement to the left of The Speccie and The Daily Telegraph, preparations are already underway to ditch the Tories (and who could blame you – pathetic leadership and supine bunch of retard MPs). Two-and-a-half more years of the coalition and another 2 or 3 terms of labour and it will be game over.

    • Fraser Nelson

      I was referring to the opinion poll, which shows no great difference in voting opinion between the private and public sectors.

      • UlyssesReturns

        You forget that a large percentage of the private sector is dependant on Tax Credits, Child Benefit and other state welfare payments making them fellow travellers with those directly on the state payroll. This was Brown’s genius; he blurred the distinction between public and private employees to the extent that the state now supports directly or indirectly around 45% of the population.

        • David Ossitt

          “This was Brown’s genius” ?

          Let’s be clear the mad bad sad Gordon Brown is not now nor
          was he ever a genius.

          Let’s be clear the mad bad sad Gordon Brown is not now nor
          was he ever a genius.

    • Daniel Maris

      OK, stand on a manifesto of closing down the BBC, withdrawing all welfare, and privatising schools. See how that goes. Better still, why bother with democracy at all. You Francoists aren’t interested in democracy anyway.

  • Justathought

    So how might the coloured bar charts look if you included the response from unemployed and 550,000 immigrants?

    We will soon reach the tipping point where there are more people in receipts of benefits than those working to pay for their benefits. Romney is only stating an open truth.

  • AnotherDaveB
  • David Webb

    Fraser, you’re trying too hard to burnish your left-wing, right-on credentials.

    The 50%+ who life off the state do always vote for high-spending governments, as, don’t forget, the Conservatives are a high-spending government. The fact that around 50% live off the state distorts and corrupts our democracy.

    Your argument that there is virtually no difference in support for the Conservatives and Labour in private and public sectors ignores the fact that BOTH of these parties support high public spending!

    Now if the Conservatives had detailed plans to reduce public expenditure to below 20% of GDP, how much support would they get among the public-sector workers?

    A little bit more thought invested in these blog posts, please!

    • AnotherDaveB

      “Your argument that there is virtually no difference in support for the Conservatives and Labour in private and public sectors”

      That’s not what he said.

      • Fraser Nelson

        I’m saying there’s no Manichean divide. Labour will always do better in the public sector, but the idea that every nurse votes Labour or every financier votes Tory is simplistic nonsense.

        • LB

          Until they discover that their ‘unfunded’ pension really means they won’t get a pension.

        • harold

          “…the idea that every nurse votes Labour or every financier votes Tory is simplistic nonsense.”

          Nice strawman there, chief.

          Quickly built. Just as quickly demolished. I tip my hat to you. You really know how to efficiently demonstrate you’ve lost the argument.

  • niav

    Doesn’t sound like he “attacked” anyone. What the man said is that his message of low taxes won’t have any impact on the part of the population that’s dependent on the state, and pays no taxes. Which stands to reason.

    The “voting by employment sector” is a straw man. He mentions no public vs private sector whatsoever, so I’m not sure what you’re peddling here. If you want to talk about the political donations of public sector unions, well, that’s worth talking about, but it’s a different topic that should start off with “vested interests” and “gravy train”.

    As to state dependency creating a leftist society, just look around you: Labour – left; LibDems – left; Tories – a minority right, some centrists, some centre-left (including Cameron). Scotland – left. Wales – left.

    The reality is that state dependency *has* turned Britain into a leftist, collectivist country where tenths of millions of people expect employment, housing, pensions, money – from the state, and they clearly vote for the politicians willing to provide these things, even if they are unaffordable. No wonder Britain is bankrupt as a nation.

    • Nicholas

      Well said. Even the YouGov poll is subtly couched in leftist terms throughout. The public narrative is almost entirely left wing, now masquerading as “centre” or “moderate” and the influence of the BBC is pernicious with political propaganda.

      • Daniel Maris

        NIcholas, it was an epic gaffe. Get over it.

    • LB

      And that’s because the Tories, Lib Dim and Socialist/Marxist wings have lied to their back teeth over the state debts.

      For example, how are you going to pay your share, 230,000, linked to inflation?

    • Daniel Maris

      The USA is an aspirational society. It is arrogant to assume that no tax payers are hostile to a low tax economy.

      • AnotherDaveB

        Why would anyone be hostile to a low tax economy?

        The purpose of taxation is to raise revenue for necessary government spending, not to punish people for earning too much.

  • Steerage

    The BBC is bigging this one up with carefully doctored extracts, leaving out key phrases.
    Romney’s remarks – which may win him the election – are even more applicable in the UK where those reliant on the state (like the BBC) and their families are now effectively a majority.
    Statism is the problem and it is time the Tories and indeed Fraser recognised it. When it becomes Peronism, as it did under New Labour, there is a danger that the imbalance becomes insoluble and economic collapse looms.

    • Fraser Nelson

      I suspect Romney’s remarks may lose him the election. Even conservatives would be appalled at the idea that a Republican president is only interested in the half of the country which pays federal income tax.

      • Curnonsky

        That would be a willful misinterpretation of his remarks – he is plainly saying that his campaign will not worry about people who would never vote for him in any circumstances and concentrate on winning over swing voters. But of course that doesn’t fit quite as neatly into the “uncaring rich bastard” meme so beloved by the British press.

      • Raimo Kangasniemi

        Especially as for Romney can’t win an important “battlefield state” like Ohio without getting low income working class voters – many of which are Evangelical and socially conservative leaning, but quite clearly, based on statistics, among Romney’s 47 percent – to vote for him in great numbers.

      • Judge Dredd

        the office of the President of the United States is not a position intended for the most capable babysitter. Why is empathy or compassion so high on your list of qualities in a leader? Or have you confused the government with another institution, that is, the church?

      • Daniel Maris

        For once we agree!

      • Daniel Maris

        For once we agree!

  • david

    So Fraser wishes him well, he’s stuffed!

    “God said, ‘Thou shalt not murder’ at another time
    He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which
    the government of heaven is conducted–by revelation adapted to the
    circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever
    God commands is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the
    reason thereof till long after the events transpire.”
    —Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 256–7.

    I don’t know about you but someone who believes that God said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy’ isn’t someone I’d like near that, ‘big red button’ it does make me a little bit nervous.

  • AnotherDaveB

    I don’t see that this is so terrible. He’s saying that x% will never vote for him, and the contest is for the small number of swing voters.

    • Hysteria

      I think it’s more the point about that “I don’t care about them” (or words to that effect) that has done the damage. Leaving aside the problem that “Income Tax” is not the same as “Tax” – it’s a nice sound bite and a bone for the right wingers. But even the low wage and natural left supporter pay State and Local taxes, (VAT here in the UK) gas tax etc. I think the point about half the society supporting the tother half is a good debate to have – but his phrasing makes him look uncaring – not a good thing weeks before the election to be head of state !

      • AnotherDaveB

        No damage “has” been done. This is just the latest of an increasingly shrill series of “game over” headlines.

        The debates still look like providing the decisive contrast between the two candidates.

        • Daniel Maris

          BS – this is hugely damaging, and will be seen to have been once the campaign is over. How is Romney going to debate effectively with Obama slipping in sly references to this every few minutes? He’s going down.

          • AnotherDaveB

            It’s not like he called Mr Obama’s supporters bigots, or suggested they were clinging to their guns and religion because they are bitter. That would be a game changer. No way anyone could win after a gaffe like that.

            • Daniel Maris

              Two wrongs don’t make a right and two gaffes don’t make for statesmanlike behaviour. What’s your point? This was a gaffe of momentous proportions.

              • AnotherDaveB

                No, it was not.

                Mr Romney pointed out that the electorate is polarised, and explained that his strategy was to win over the minority of swing voters remaining. That’s politics.

                The clip is being spun to put his remarks in the worst possible light, but there is no scandal in them. Wishing won’t change that.

                The debates should decide the winner. Quite right too.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Well give us the full quote if it’s been edited to sound bad. I heard a long, long quote. It was ALL bad.

                  He was saying there were no swing voters among the 47% who don’t pay income tax. That’s wrong plain and simple. It has to be when about a quarter are Republican voters! The guy’s an idiot, like Palin was an idiot. And no, this isn’t knee-jerk anti-Republicanism. I spoke admiringly of Paul Ryan.

                • AnotherDaveB

                  Video, the full video.

                  Clearly I can’t. Because it’s not been released.

                  Presumably because, put in context, it is innocuous.

            • martinvickers

              Apples and pears, i’m afraid – What Obama said was inelegent and incendiary, but it was clearly an attempt to understand certain voters, voters he wanted to vote for him.
              The only plausible way to read Romney’s statement was “47% of the country are useless victims, scroungers, f*** ’em – ‘It’s not my job to care about them”
              Only someone relentlessly partisan could not see the difference. What Obama said was hugely patronising. But what Romney said was contemptuous.

              • AnotherDaveB

                “inelegant and incrediary”

                But not wrong? These people are all bigots? They “cling” to their culture and religion because of their “bitterness”?

                • martinvickers

                  Obama never used that word, or implied it. You know that.

      • Raimo Kangasniemi


        Political leaders need to run to be the leaders of the all the people, at least nominally and to pretend to care for all the citizens even if they don’t, and this tends to be more pronounced in US than in countries with a prime ministerial systems, where campaigning for a support from just a segment of the population is seen as more acceptable than in presidential systems.

    • Daniel Maris

      If you don’t see the problem here, you are part of the problem.

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