There can be no joy in Mittville.
The GOP presidential candidate with a habit of living up to the caricature the Obama campaign pushes of an aloof plutocratic politician has yet again set himself squarely in the frame of that very picture.
Busted by a hidden camera at a Florida fundraiser last May (the video of which was released Monday), Romney was caught telling wealthy donors that, among other things, nearly half the country is made up of irresponsible takers on the government dole, adding, “My job is not to worry about those people.”
Late Monday, Romney held a news conference in which he did not back away from his assertions. He said only that his comments were “not elegantly stated.”
A fair statement.
But the problem here is two-fold: his own words highlight his image as an out-of-touch multi-millionaire with a car elevator who won’t release his tax returns; and they come just as voters are beginning to pay serious attention to the race.
His words will be repeated. “Those people” will be defined as unemployed or impaired military veterans, seniors on Social Security, students getting federal loan assistance, those with disabilities, etc.
All will be cast as viewed by Romney as people who cannot be convinced to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The Obama campaign, of course, pounced: it issued a fund-raising appeal saying that someone who “demonstrates such disgust and disdain for half of our fellow Americans” doesn’t deserve to be president.
The episode is a sort of replay of Obama’s 2008 primary campaign comments to a group of donors in California that people in rural Pennsylvania are bitter and “cling" to their guns and religion.
That comment dogs him to this day. GOP veep candidate Paul Ryan uses it in stump speeches saying that as a Catholic hunter he’s proud to cling to his guns and his faith.
The difference is that Obama’s gaffe came in a primary and Romney’s comes much closer to the general election.
The question is can Mitt weather his misstep (which is certain to be fodder for cartoonists, comics and editorials in the same way Obama’s was) and refocus voters’ attention away from the caricature he’s helping to solidify.
After mucking up reaction to the assault on the U.S. embassy in Libya just last week and now facing down comments about dependent Americans, Romney’s batting with two strikes. And there can’t be much joy in Mittville.