Under the prevailing definition of a gaffe — accidentally telling the truth — Mitt Romney is guilty, guilty, guilty. The only surprise is that he knew the truth all along and kept it to himself.

A tape from a May fund-raiser is rocking the campaign because Romney was “caught” accurately outlining our political polarization.

As a defining principle, the almost-half the nation backing President Obama wants government to do more. The other half backs Romney because it knows the government already does too much.

It is a financial fight, but also a cultural one. The entitlement mentality isn’t limited to those who earned or desperately need their country’s help.

We’re sinking because too many politicians like Obama think their job is to “level the playing field” by confiscating wealth from some Americans and giving it to others. First, they take a big cut for themselves and their friends.

It is a fact that nearly 47 percent, as Romney said, don’t have any skin in the game — they pay no federal income taxes. Not all are greedy, of course, but whatever the government spends is gravy to them. The more spending of other people’s money, the more gravy they get.

These clashing views about the role and size of government are what the 2012 campaign is about. Or should be.

Until now, Romney has been too timid in saying so, while Obama has been more forthright in promising an ever bigger, more powerful state. Obama is winning that argument because he is a more talented politician and a better liar in claiming the endless goodies can be paid for by hiking taxes on the top 2 percent. His road leads to Greece, with stops for insolvency and soaring unemployment.

No matter. Who can resist free stuff, especially when the president says go ahead, everybody else does it? And you deserve it because society is rigged against you and America is unjust, blah, blah, blah.

That, not incidentally, was the theme of the Democratic convention. For three days, the grievance committee was in session, with a parade of speakers railing against success and complaining that somebody’s check wasn’t in the mail. They celebrated victimhood as a sign of virtue.

Grievance is also the theme of the Occupy rabble. Is there any doubt the vagabonds taunting cops and making life miserable for working New Yorkers will vote for Obama, if they bother to vote?

So now, Romney is on the record saying all this much more clearly than ever, although he was reckless in appearing to fault half the population. Still, he’s stuck with the message, and repeated it Monday, saying, “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.”

Romney was also succinctly savvy on foreign policy. He accused the president of believing “his magnetism and his charm and his persuasiveness is so compelling that he can sit down with people like [Vladimir] Putin and [Hugo] Chávez and [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, and that they’ll find that we’re such wonderful people that they’ll go on with us, and they’ll stop doing bad things.” He added, “It’s an extraordinarily naive perception.”

That naivete was true even before the terrorist attack on our Libyan embassy and anti-American riots broke out in most Arab countries. But Obama clings to denial about Islamic fundamentalism because to admit it would demolish his self-aggrandizing “great man” theory Romney aptly described.

Romney also said that Palestinians “are committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel” and that, as a result, there was little chance of a settlement. Ha — another gaffe!

Now that he’s been exposed speaking his mind, coming days will show whether Romney sees it as liberation or a mistake. Here’s hoping he has the courage to embrace the substance, and that he and Paul Ryan couple a new boldness with more detail on their plans for economic growth and job creation. Their vagueness has been unpersuasive and a ripe target for Obama attacks.

Because Romney is right about the nation’s divide, he may lose the election no matter what he does. But defeat will be far more bitter if he doesn’t give voters his honest assessment of where America is headed. Over the next 48 days, he owes 100 percent candor to 100 percent of us.

To continue reading Michael Goodwin's column in the New York Post, click here.