Romney gaffe shows political incompetence
Photo Illustration | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES
This has been a rough couple of weeks for Mitt Romney. Amid polls showing that President Barack Obama is retaining his post-convention bump, a video containing some damaging information leaked to the general public.
In this video, the Republican presidential candidate was recorded as characterizing 47 percent of the country as dependent on government, as believing they are victims. He made the assertion that these people pay no income tax. He said it is not his job to worry about those people, that he can never convince them to take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
For a moment, let’s put aside the issues in that statement alone, and focus on the political aspect of it. What could he have possibly gained from this statement? No good could have come from it, should it become public knowledge. A statement like this alienates nearly half the country. It shows contempt for the very people he needs to vote for him.
Throughout this campaign, Gov. Romney has struggled to portray himself as a man who is in touch with the needs of the everyday American. Continually, he has found himself fighting to connect with that American, as the media and the president highlight truths about his life — that he is a multi-millionaire several times over, that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and raised in the lap of luxury. This video, which was recorded at a $50,000 a plate fundraiser, only serves to confirm the accusations of the president and liberal media. It portrays the governor as an out-of-touch, distant, cold, unfeeling elitist. It causes enormous political problems for him, as 67 percent of Americans identify with the members of “the 47 percent,” according to a Reuters poll.
This mistake leads me to ponder the question: When will Romney get out of his own way? His campaign, since he clinched the nomination, has been prone to gaffes. His trip abroad, meant to bolster his foreign policy credentials, was an unmitigated disaster; he offended Britons, Poles and Palestinians, all in one fell swoop. His refusal to release his tax returns until last week prompted speculation about his tax burden.
The president is by no means popular. If he wins come Nov. 6, he will have done so with the lowest approval ratings of any incumbent in recent memory. He will have done so amid an energized opposition, a tepid economy and lagging unemployment data. He should have been ripe for unseating. Romney should have had an easy time.
However, the Romney campaign has been so inept that the president appears to be fairly safe. Romney’s polling numbers are sagging, and the president’s are on the rise. The Romney campaign is described by a Wall Street Journal Editorial writer as “incompetent,” and Republican lawmakers and candidates are publicly distancing themselves from the governor’s remarks.
This election should have been easier for the Republicans. They should have nominated a strong, respected, tried-and-true party elder like Jeb Bush, and they could have taken the White House. Instead, they nominated an also-ran from 2008 with a reputation for flip-flopping and elitism. If the president wins re-election on Nov. 6, it will be because the Republican nominee gave it to him.