“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I will fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich. They’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling” – Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney made a mistake. He offered the media, the Obama campaign, and his GOP rivals a sound byte. Was it a gaffe? Most assuredly. However, it was not on par with the nationally televised debate error that essentially removed Rick Perry from the GOP presidential nominee contest. It was a simple lapse in speaking, and if framed in the larger context of the entire sentence he spoke, was not as bad as it sounds or the media is making it out to be.
Much media coverage has been given to the fact that Romney “does not care about the (very) poor.” The title of the article depends on the political slant of a given publication, news service, or blog. Such a title does a disservice to Romney’s remarks and, in my opinion, the media. Misquoting or selectively quoting his remarks may make for a good headline, but it does not necessarily reflect his policy position(s) accurately. It is misleading to a public that (unfortunately) overwhelmingly gets its news in headline blurbs, 140 character tweets, and sound bytes. If Romney is unaware of how the majority of the American public gets its news, then he is out of touch. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he does. Therefore, in my opinion, he made and error and is aware of it. None of us is perfect.
As such, I find the fact that some political pundits (conservatives among them) have floated the idea that such a misstep proves that Romney is not yet ready to take on Obama to be premature and misguided. We live in an era of 24/7 media coverage. Every utterance, movement, and decision on what color suit or dress to wear is scrutinized. It is not surprising that Romney has misspoken. What is more surprising is that he has lasted this long without doing so in such a publicized manner. In my opinion, this might even be a valuable lesson for Romney, and it could not have come at a better time.
The pundits are wrong because this is not the end of the line for Romney. Yes, he gave ammunition to his competition and will have his message misconstrued by the media, but it is not uncommon to be misquoted in this day and age. In fact, the Obama and Romney campaigns have been warring with one another, each using ads that misquote the other. Romney will quickly be reminded that he needs to select his words more carefully. The Gingrich and Obama campaigns have begun their assaults on these comments, but I do not believe that this alone will slow Romney’s momentum after a convincing win in the Florida primary. In fact, I strongly believe that this experience will toughen Romney for his eventual battle with Obama in the general election. One final thought: if the pundits believe that Romney is sufficiently prepared to take on Obama, how can they justify the fact that a loose cannon like Gingrich, who is prone to more bombastic rhetoric, would prove to be a better alternative.