With hot mics and ubiquitous cell phone cameras and 24 hour news coverage, all political candidates are bound to do this sooner or later:
The question is, does it really hurt them?
Mitt Romney recently got popped with cell phone footage in which he says,“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. .. These are people who pay no income tax. …My job is not to worry about those people.”
Okay, so the gloves came off and Mitt spoke candidly: he disdains poor people dependent on government assistance, and blames them for a culture of victimhood.
Um….this one could sting.
It could sting because, as Bill Galston, an analyst at the Brookings Institution says, “In my experience, remarks that are consistent with pre-existing beliefs about a candidate tend to have credibility.”
Polls taken after the gaffe show that – for the moment, at least – there are independent voters who were not thrilled with Romney’s dismissive comments, especially given his image as a tax dodging, out of touch, toffee nosed patrician.
Check out the economic breakdown: 42% of independents with household incomes of less than $24,000 per year said they were less likely to vote for Romney after the gaffe; 36% of those earning between $24,000 and $60,000 felt the same; and only 28% of independents earning more than $90,000 per year were bothered by the comment.
The more you make, the more you agree with Romney that the 47% are deadbeats.
But with 9 swing states up for grabs, and their outcomes likely dependent on which way independents go, Romney needs to start sweating this one a little bit.
But perhaps it’s not the end of the world for him: in 2008 candidate Barack Obama survived his hot mic “clinging” gaffe.
Talking to wealthy donors in San Francisco about blue collar folks in the Midwest who had lost their factory jobs, Obama said “…it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
So in one sentence, Obama managed to reinforce the notion that he was some ivy league, peacenik atheist who looked down on people who make a living with their hands. And the “people who aren’t like them” nugget was just code for “people who won’t vote for me because I’m black.”
Place foot securely at bottom of throat.
Obama survived the gaffe, I think, because even if there was a slightly patronizing tone about it, he essentially was expressing that he understood what kind of frustrations these people were feeling, whereas Romney flat out said it’s not his job to worry about them.
Obama might have worried from the top of an ivory tower, but at least he worried.