Fresh from his win in Florida and a thumping for Newt Gingrich (and his right-wing media shills), Mitt Romney uttered these words in an interview on CNN this morning, which once again have sent the perpetually aghast on the right and left into a tizzy:
Mitt Romney: “They want someone who they have confidence in. I believe I will be able to instill that confidence in the American people. By the way, I’m in this race, because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor; we have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling, and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.”
Soledad O’Brien: “I know I said last question. You said I’m not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say that sounds odd. Can you explain that?”
Mitt Romney: “Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have the safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them. The challenge right now — we will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor. And there’s no question, it’s not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor. But my campaign is focused on middle income Americans. My campaign — you can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich, that’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That’s not my focus. My focus is on middle income Americans, retirees living on Social Security, people who can’t find work, folks that have kids getting ready to go to college. These are the people who have been most badly hurt during the Obama years. We have a very ample safety net, and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor.” (My emphasis added.)
Yet — you saw this one coming — the anti-Romney left and anti-Romney right (neither of which had any impact on the vote in Florida) have gone bonkers, accusing Romney of saying he doesn’t care about the poor and of making an horrendous gaffe. The last time these folks spotted a horrendous gaffe was Romney’s $10,000 debate bet, which turned out to be a nothing burger.
Romney as the nominee will be flyspecked and criticized over every word. He needs to avoid actual gaffes. But he can’t keep the media from editing out all the inconvenient parts of every sentence, paragraph and interview. He’ll need to work on talking directly to voters, making his case in ads and debates. The good news for him, at least in the primary, is that the media that are predisposed to pounce on every (other) word and offer the most negative interpretation of his every statement and performance appear to have zero influence among voters. Perhaps a less crazed approach to covering Romney would restore their credibility.