Hillary Clinton’s “houses” vs John McCain’s “houses”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that she and her husband were  "dead broke" when leaving the White House in 2011 and still had to "pay off the debts and get us houses." Houses. Plural. Cue outrage. (Clinton on Tuesday worked to clean up the mess she had made.)

The "houses" stumble reminded me of Arizona Sen. John McCain's famous/infamous inability to recall the number of homes he owned during the 2008 presidential campaign. "I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico at the time. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you." (He actually owned 8 properties at the time.)

So, which is worse: Hillary's houses gaffe or McCain's?  That's our Match/Point for today -- a semi-regular matchup in which we set up a matchup and then declare a winner. (It's kind of like the battle between the Mountain and Prince Oberyn in "Game of Thrones" but without the head explosions.)

Clinton's flub came on day one -- actually the day before day one -- of her book rollout. ("Hard Choices" was released on Tuesday morning officially.) So, rather than touting all that she learned during her time at the State Department, she spent Tuesday morning explaining how blessed she and her husband had been in life and that plenty of people are struggling every day in America. Not ideal.

McCain's inability to recall the number of houses he owned came at an even worse time, however.  It broke on Aug. 21, 2008, just days before the Democratic National Convention in Denver -- handing then Sen. Barack Obama and his party yet another cudgel by which to cast the Arizona Republican as out-of-touch.  While McCain would have lost the race whether or not he was able to remember how many houses he owned, the timing of his inability to recall that fact was remarkably ill timed.

And, timing is everything -- or at least a lot of things -- in politics. Clinton's slip-up came at an inopportune time but, unless she does it again, it will likely be forgotten in a week. McCain's mistake became part of a broader narrative about the Republican nominee that damaged his attempts to build any momentum against Obama.

John McCain "wins" this Match/Point.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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Aaron Blake · June 10, 2014

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