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Cory Booker commits the classic Washington gaffe

at 01:05 PM ET, 05/21/2012

In Washington, there’s an old cliche: A gaffe is when a politician is accidentally honest.

That’s what happened to Newark (N.J.) Mayor Cory Booker during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Booker, who is widely regarded as a fast riser in Democratic politics, veered badly off message when he defended Bain Capital — the longtime employer of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — and described the negative tone of the campaign as “nauseating”.

You can watch Booker’s performance for yourself here:

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Not surprisingly, Republicans immediately seized on Booker’s comments as a way to push back on the attacks launched by President Obama’s campaign on Romney’s record in the private sector. The Republican National Committee quickly distributed the Booker comment to reporters via e-mail, Twitter and even Tumblr.

Meanwhile, Democrats scrambled to contain the damage.

Booker, one of the most tech- and social media-savvy politicians in the country — he has more than a million Twitter followers — posted a video on You Tube that attempted to re-frame his comments as broadly supportive of the president and said he “encouraged” Obama to make an issue out of Romney’s record at Bain.

Booker did, however, re-iterate his belief that the tone of the campaign was “nauseating” and “calls to our lowest common denominators.”

Here’s that video:

What Booker tweeted out Sunday afternoon was a nearly four-minute long video. But, as Politico’s Dylan Byers pointed out Sunday night, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt later tweeted out an edited, 35-second version that included only Booker’s comments on Romney. And, on Monday, the RNC launched an “I stand with Cory” online petition drive designed to keep the matyor’s comments in the news.

Given all of that, it’s pretty clear what happened here. The Obama team saw Booker equating attacks on Bain Capital with attacks on Rev. Jeremiah Wright — he said almost exactly those words — and knew they had a political mess to clean up.

“This election, like all other elections, is going to be a choice between two candidates, two records and two visions for the country,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt on a conference call Monday morning. “We’ve not heard an affirmative vision from [Romney].”

Trur enough. But, it’s also clear from watching the entirety of Booker’s video that he isn’t really walking back his comments as much as he is trying to provide more context than is typically available on a Sunday show roundtable appearance.

Watch Booker’s video; it’s obvious he doesn’t like the negativity of the campaign — on both sides — and despite what we can only assume was heavy pressure by the Obama team to fix the glitch, he isn’t willing to entirely walk back his comments.

This is a minor moment in a campaign that is more than five months away from its conclusion. But Booker’s comments and the way in which they made life difficult for the Obama campaign on Sunday show just how careful both sides — and their surrogates — have to be every time they open their mouths between now and Nov. 6.

Speak too much truth — like Booker on negative campaigning — and watch an unwanted firestorm (is there any other kind?) erupt.

Obama camp targets another Bain company: The Obama campaign isn’t backing off the Bain attacks any time soon. And in fact, it’s rolling out Stage Two today.

The new web video from the campaign focuses on another company bought up by Bain: Ampad. Bain bought the paper company and shut down one of its plants in Indiana, costing it 250 jobs.

Overall, the ad says, the company shed 1,500 jobs while Romney and his investors made millions off of it.

The campaign is also holding a conference call with a former Ampad employee this morning.

Obama’s cash advantage gro ws: Romney’s campaign had less than $10 million cash on hand at the end of April — less than one-twelfth the amount Obama’s campaign had.

The federal campaign finance reports due Sunday expound on the numbers reported by the campaigns themselves last week.

Romney’s campaign said it had raised $40 million total for the month, split between different entities. His campaign, though, raised just $11.7 million of it and has just $9.2 million on hand after a tough primary season (Romney was pretty clearly the presumptive nominee for most or all of April).

Obama, meanwhile, raised $25.7 million for his campaign and had $115 million cash on hand at the end of the month. Obama raised a total of $43.6 million for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Republicans pick Rodney Davis for Johnson seat: GOP leaders in Illinois on Saturday picked Rodney Davis, a former aide to Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), as their nominee for retiring Rep. Tim Johnson’s (R-Ill.) seat.

Johnson announced his retirement after the March primary, leaving local party activists to pick their nominee.

Davis beat out former Johnson chief of staff Jerry Clarke, former Miss America winner Erika Harold and businesswoman Kathy Wassink.

Davis will face Democratic physician David Gill in November in a newly drawn swing district.

Fixbits:

The Hill reports that Bain employees have given more money to Democrats than Republicans.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) lays into Obama in a speech in South Carolina, calling him one of the most “divisive” and “destructive” figures in American history.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) keep talking tough on the debt limit.

Minnesota is the latest state where Ron Paul supporters have taken over the delegate process.

A new poll in Tennessee shows Obama nipping at Romney’s heels. The two are virtually tied in the Vanderbilt University poll.

Leading New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn gets married in one of the most high-profile gay weddings ever.

The NAACP has endorsed gay marriage.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) has now spent $8 million of his own money on his Senate campaign.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin records a call for Dewhurst’s opponent, Ted Cruz.

Linda McMahon wins the Connecticut Republican Party’s Senate endorsement, but former congressman Chris Shays wins enough of the vote to qualify for the primary ballot.

Must-reads:

How the Rothman vs. Pascrell congressional race destroyed a friendship and rattled a party” — Matt Friedman, The Star-Ledger

Playing with fire” — The Chicago Tribune

Mitt Romney’s foreign policy moment” — Maggie Haberman, Politico

The missing issue in the presidential campaign” — Dan Balz, Washington Post

Romney’s Faith, Silent but Deep” — Jodi Kantor, New York Times

Michelle Obama’s campaign strategy: Steering clear of the hot issues” — Krissah Thompson, Washington Post

 
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