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Archives: Romney’s ‘poor’ gaffe reveals big political weaknesses

Originally published in February 2012
Simon Nguyen

If there was a contest for political panderer-in-chief, Mitt Romney would win it with ease. No candidate has changed his stances on issues more frequent than the former Massachusetts governor. This tendency has earned him the dubious “flip flopper” tag.

The GOP frontrunner’s pandering for votes got him into a bit of trouble Wednesday, when he was accused of making an insensitive comment towards America’s poor in a CNN interview. Romney’s opponents have quickly seized on the comment as evidence he is out of touch with average Americans.

In Romney’s defense, the quote was taken completely out of context. The full remark clearly shows that Romney was not being disrespectful to the poor. The incident was simply a poor attempt by the Bain Capital’s co-founder to pander to middle class voters. .

This whole episode does, however, expose some of Romney’s biggest flaws as a candidate. When you aggressively pander to a certain group of people, you are likely to inadvertently marginalize other groups of people. This is likely what happened to Romney in that interview. The former Massachusetts governor was so determined to appeal to middle class voters in his comment that he gave an impression he doesn’t care about the poor.

To be fair, almost all politicians pander for votes. But an experienced candidate will be more artful in explaining his or her positions. Romney, the businessman, has yet to master to this art. In today’s 24-hour news cycle and political stereotypes, gaffes like this could have long-lasting implications.

Another thing Romney should be concerned with is his increasingly negative public image. If this remark was made by President Barack Obama, it would not have been a controversy. Romney’s rivals and the Democrats have successfully stereotyped him as the rich-man candidate. Consequently, any slightly misstated remark made by Romney will automatically be construed as either insensitive to the poor or favoring Wall Street. The blowups over Romney’s $10,000 bet and his “fire people” comment are perfect examples of this.

Unless Romney could drastically improve his communication skills and shed his image as a flip flopper, he will likely become the Republican Michael Dukakis.

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