Ah, October and its dreaded October Surprise. Looking for one turns the month into a 31-day house of horrors for political operatives and those of us who like to watch how said operatives react to the unforeseen thing that could knock them or their opponents off stride in the race to the November election.
For the so-called October Surprise to be effective, it has to be, well, a surprise; it has to fit a preexisting narrative about the candidate; it has to penetrate the public’s consciousness and it has to come before Election Day.
But here’s the thing: The October Surprise happened in September.
Yep, I’m talking about the “47 percent” video unearthed by President Jimmy Carter’s grandson and disseminated by Mother Jones. Mitt Romney trashing 47 percent of the country as freeloaders and declaring “my job is is not to worry about those people” was a jaw-dropper. I still can’t believe he said it.
Romney was already battling a perception (aided and abetted by negative attacks from President Obama’s reelection effort) as an out-of-touch 1 percenter. And there he is at an estate in Boca Raton disparaging the very people who can be heard uncorking the wine bottles in the background. Romney’s campaign acknowledged how damaging the video was by releasing a 60-second ad last week titled “Too Many Americans,” where the multimillionaire declares he “cares about the poor.”
Mitt Romney’s statement that 47% of the public is dependent on government has registered strongly with voters. Fully two-thirds of voters (67%) correctly identify Romney as the candidate who made the comments. Among those aware that Romney made comments about the “47%”, more than half (55%) have a negative reaction while just 23% react positively.
The Pew poll also shows that 49 percent of those who knew of Romney’s comments believed that the media gave them too much coverage. This is where I disagree.
In a campaign void of specifics about how to solve the problems the next president will undoubtedly have to tackle, Romney’s holding forth on the “47 percent” was a view into the candidate’s view of half the nation he hopes to lead. Ever since the video surfaced, Romney’s electoral chances have gotten darker. With early voting already underway in 32 states and the District of Columbia, the revelation of Romney’s words on Sept. 17 may have sealed his fate.