Modern politics has killed at least two things: privacy and context.
Mitt Romney (re)learned that lesson this past week when an amateur video from a fundraiser went viral. It shows him telling a group of well-heeled donors that, among other things, “there are 47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.”
For a campaign that has struggled to play offense since the GOP convention late last month in Tampa, the “47 percent” video couldn’t have taken off at a worse time.
Romney hastily arranged a news conference in California on Monday to address the emerging controversy, but he said little to explain himself other than that his point had not been “elegantly stated.” Those comments further fueled a fire that he and his campaign spent the next two days desperately trying to stamp out, noting that what the Repulican nominee meant was that the country is deeply polarized and there are very few persuadable voters. (That, of course, is true, but it’s not what Romney originally said.)
By later in the week, Romney seemed to have decided that pivoting from the “47 percent” controversy was smarter than doubling down on it. “My campaign is about the 100 percent of America,” Romney told a crowd at the University of Miami on Wednesday.
Republicans insist that Obama’s remarks about not being able to make change from Washington will refocus the campaign on the president’s first-term failure. But that’s for next week.
And this past week’s damage has certainly eroded Romney’s support: Gallup polling showed that 36 percent of registered voters said the “47 percent” comment made them less likely to support Romney, while 20 percent said it made them more likely to back him. Forty-three percent said the comment would not affect their vote.
Mitt Romney, for forgetting that the camera is always rolling, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at firstname.lastname@example.org.