Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Only 47% Will Never Vote For Him? (September 19, 2012)

By now the Romney video has run through one news cycle.  His comments, captured at a Florida fundraiser in May, were, indeed, to use his word, "inelegant,' and, to use Paul Ryan's word, "inarticulate."  I have a few words, too:  "unbelievably dumb."  There are about a thousand ways he could have said what he said, to a private group of fundraisers, that would have accomplished the twin objectives of firing them up and giving them a little inside baseball on campaign strategy.  What he said was one-thousandth on that list.

Most famously, he said that "47%" (breathtakingly accurate!) of America would never vote for him, and that they were the types who pay no taxes and are "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them."  He also made a joke about wishing he had Latino blood in him that would serve his prospects for the presidency better.

As with all good gaffes, this doozy (or set of doozies) reinforced some uncomfortable perceived truths about Romney -- first, that he is elitist and uncaring, but perhaps more importantly at this stage, that he is, well, gaffe-prone.  People don't like their Presidents to be un-Presidential, and between London, Libya, Cadillacs, Nascar owners, many more and now this, the record is quite clear.  This man has trouble with unscripted comments.

Peggy Noonan and other Republican insiders are turning on the Romney campaign, blistering it with attacks, and many stories are appearing about infighting within the campaign.  This is damaging the Romney brand by calling into question its main asset -- that he is a highly capable CEO.  Running a campaign well is the main public validation of a "competence" claim and this one is not going so well.

I must say, though, that Romney's current tack of turning the gaffe into a philosophical debate about  the role of government is not a bad one.  He's getting a great deal of practice on spinning his gaffes, and perhaps he is turning it into an art form.  Time will tell if he spins out of this one.  But until then, more news cycles go by where he is "off message" ("jobs") yet again.

1 comment:

  1. Romney had no choice but to embrace this gaffe -- there was literally nowhere and no way to run from it. And he is now trying to double-down on it by reframing it into an uber-theme about big government vs. small government. The problem is that Romney's actual unguarded language was not at all about government size. It was about the character of the people: he charged the 47% with laziness,entitlement,dependency,a belief that they are "victims," and an inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for their own lives. Not once in the now infamous "47% clip" did Romney say that big government is bad. The very specific point he hammered home was that half the U.S. population is bad.


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